FEMA funds expected after storm damage

February 18, 2012

Governor Kitzhaber sent a formal request Thursday to President Obama asking for a federal disaster declaration due to statewide damage caused by severe winter storms in mid-January.

Hood River County was added to a list of 12 counties in Oregon that incurred enough damage during the weather event to qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. In all, the week of intense snow, rain, ice, flooding and landslides caused tens of millions of dollars in damage in the 12 counties. Gov. Kitzhaber's office reported eligible public costs for the disaster at about $16.3 million statewide, as well as another $19.5 million in federal highway damage.

In Hood River County, damage to public infrastructure was estimated at $1.5 million. The figure is an estimate of damage to certain services and public agencies and does not include damage to private businesses or homes. The lion's share of the estimate came from Hood River Electric Co-op for significant damage to power lines and poles, the City of Hood River for expenses related to dealing with a landslide that threatened the city water line and Farmers Irrigation District for electrical damage and revenue lost from halting hydroelectricity production.

Shortly after the storm event, Gov. Kitzhaber directed the Office of Emergency Management to gather damage assessment data by county. FEMA and other personnel visited each county to gather information and make assessments. Benton, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Polk and Tillamook counties were added to the Governor's letter.

If President Obama signs the declaration - which he is expected to do - FEMA will begin the detailed process of determining exactly how much each county will receive in relief funds.

"The resilience of our citizens and communities is impressive, but we must continue to assist counties that suffered significant damages from these severe winter storms," said Governor Kitzhaber. "Federal disaster aid will be essential to help our citizens and local governments fully recover."

Hood River County is no stranger to the FEMA process. The county has received emergency funding for three of the last six years (assuming it gets funding this year). Most recently, storms in 2008 blanketed the county in several feet of snow and shut down major roads and highways, including Interstate 84, for several days. Through FEMA funding, the county was able recuperate most of the cost associated with snow removal. FEMA funds were also awarded for storm-related damage in 1996, 2003 and 2006.

"We are sure we have met the threshold for infrastructure damage, so the county will be included in the disaster declaration," said Karl Tesch, Hood River County Emergency Management officer. "Once the declaration comes down from the President, that's when the real process begins. At that point, a team will assemble and work out how much each county will receive and where the money will go."

For Hood River county, the threshold for damage to private homes and businesses was not met. Only four of the 12 worst-hit counties on the declaration were on the Governor's letter for private property disaster relief.

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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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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