County agencies claim over $1 million in storm costs for FEMA relief funds

February 4, 2012

Cost estimates are still being tallied for last month's snow and ice storm, and for Hood River County's public infrastructure, estimates have already surpassed $1 million.

In an Initial Damage Assessment presented Thursday to Oregon's emergency management agency, the county's damages and costs associated with the week of severe weather impacted the county's public works, local governments, nonprofits and special districts to the tune of $1,014,588.06.

The figure includes estimates of actual physical damage, as well as costs like overtime pay, loss-of-revenue, debris removal and additional labor, but does not include loss or damage to the general public's personal property.

Statewide, reported damages for the same storm were up to nearly $40 million as of Friday morning, with Marion and Benton counties reporting a little more than half of the total damage amount due to severe flooding that inundated a large part of the Willamette Valley. For Hood River County it wasn't flooding but heavy snow and rain followed by a severe ice storm that caused the damage.

Federal Emergency Management Agency inspectors visited Hood River Friday to evaluate the situation and interview entities that claimed damages on the IDA. Information from affected counties across the state will be compiled and reviewed by FEMA. The agency will then make a recommendation to President Obama, who will make the final declaration.

"Based on the current data and what I have seen in the past, I'm confident there will be a disaster declaration by the president," said Karl Tesch, Hood River County's emergency management coordinator.

If that is the case, entities that filed claims will likely be reimbursed for costs incurred from the storm.

The largest claim amount in the county came from Hood River Electric Co-op., which reported $342,000 in costs from the event. While in major cleanup mode just after the storm, HREC General Manager John Gerstenberger said the event is the worst he's ever seen in terms of damage to the agency's infrastructure.

In a close second, the City of Hood River listed a claim $336,107.08, mainly incurred by the emergency response to a landslide that threatened the city's water pipeline at a crossing over the Hood River.

"The biggest cost we incurred -- at about $275,000 -- was to stabilize the city water line near the slide," said Bob Francis, city manager. "We're hoping FEMA funding will take care of the costs. We don't ask for the help very often, and when we do it's for good reason."

Francis noted that federal funds were granted to the city last year to rebuild an aged truss bridge that carried the city's waterline over the Hood River south of Tucker Park. It was, Francis said, "just in the nick of time," since two trees involved in the landslide fell across the new truss. The trees - and not the water line - snapped in two and fell into the river.

Farmers Irrigation District also reported high costs from the storm, mainly in the form of lost revenue from not producing hydroelectricity.

"We went offline on January 18 and haven't been generating power since then," said Jer Camarata, interim FID manager. He said the reason generators are still offline is due to electrical damage and blown-out substation surge arrestors caused by power surges. "Some of our other costs include debris removal, electrical system damage, repairs to damaged canal banks and damage to water quality monitoring equipment. We had so many trees fall across our roads and infrastructure that we stopped counting at 500," he said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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