– The Associated Press

JOPLIN, Mo. – Some of the people left homeless by the Joplin tornado could be placed in rental homes nearly an hour’s drive away, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday it will consider bringing in trailers, as it did for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, if enough homes are not available.

FEMA’s first option for housing the thousands of displaced is to find them existing rental housing within a 55-mile radius of Joplin, because there isn’t much housing left in the city of nearly 50,000 residents that was left badly damaged by the May 22 tornado, spokeswoman Susie Stonner said. Nearly a third of the city was damaged by the violent storm that left killed more than 130 people. Twenty-nine are still unaccounted for.

Stonner said that despite the distance, putting people in permanent housing is preferable to trailers — especially in an area prone to tornadoes.

“Wouldn’t you prefer to be in a stable building over a mobile home?” she asked. Stonner also noted that getting things like water, sewer lines and developing pads for trailers would take substantial time.

City Administrator Mark Rohr said the goal is to keep people as close to home as possible but that “based on the circumstances we’ll have to respond accordingly.” The city has not said how many people were left homeless by the twister, but Rohr said 4,500 to 5,000 residents have registered with FEMA.

Temporary housing will be made available for up to 18 months. Some people along the Gulf Coast still live in FEMA trailers nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina.

Another FEMA spokesman, Bob Josephson, said the agency will consider bringing trailers to Joplin if enough existing housing isn’t available. He said every effort will be made to find existing rental units closest to Joplin and that many residents may simply choose to find their own housing options.

People who lived in the 8,000 structures smashed in the storm have scattered to the homes of friends and relatives or camped out in emergency shelters in the city.

Penny Musgraves is happy — and almost surprised — to be alive. But for Musgraves, whose low-income housing townhouse was ripped away above her head as she protected her cowering 6-year-old daughter, the joy of surviving is beginning to give way to confusion and anxiety about the future.

“I’m kind of scared,” said the 45-year-old, who is unemployed and living at the Red Cross shelter set up at Missouri Southern State University. “There isn’t much low-income housing. I can’t rent a place. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”