Silent Storm: Smithers local, FEMA break down communication barriers to deal with post storm damage

SMITHERS, WV (WOAY)- Ronald Senters from Smithers is still dealing with the after-effects of the early April storms. His home had major water damage to the ceilings.

However, the process of getting federal aid that was authorized included a hurdle that not everyone deals with: Senters is deaf and cannot communicate with FEMA over the phone.

Senters cannot come to a FEMA disaster recovery center due to his lack of transportation and the fact that is not within walking distance, but luckily for him, FEMA has been able to come to his doorstep.

Senters communicates via sign language. A FEMA official interpreted for us during our conversation.

“Two women came up to the gate, and they were trying to communicate with me, and they asked me. They were showing me, you know, could you call in? And I told them that I couldn’t call. And so then, several other cars came up. Another person came, and so they were talking and one of the ladies signed. Then, they filled out the application process for me. About a week after they had left, the next person that came was the sign language interpreter who came to assist, contacting me so that FEMA could do a home inspection,” Senters signed.

Due to the water damage, his ceilings started to come down.

“The ceiling fell in the living room. There is water leakage in the kitchen,” signed Senters. “I was actually standing in the kitchen when it started leaking, and it was dripping down my back.”

He has received emergency assistance from FEMA and is currently waiting on insurance to continue the process. FEMA has been assisting him throughout it.

“And now I feel happy. You know that, I’m getting some help and some assistance,” signed Senters.

The deadline to apply for assistance is July 22.

The Fayetteville Disaster Recovery Center will close on Wednesday, July 3rd at 6 p.m., though if you still wish to get in-person assistance after that, you can go to the Nicholas County Disaster Recovery Center in Summersville.

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