Governor requests federal aid for floods and windstorm

OLYMPIA -- Governor Mike Lowry requested that President Clinton declare a major disaster for nine Washington counties today. The governor made the request because of damage to homes, businesses and public facilities from heavy rains and extensive flooding in late November-early December, and the major windstorm that occurred Dec. 12.

"I've requested the President make federal assistance available as soon as possible in the counties hardest hit by flooding and the windstorm," said Lowry.

Pending completion of formal damage assessments, the governor requested President Clinton to declare a disaster in Chelan, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Lewis, King, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston and Wahkiakum counties.

Initial assessments show the combined disasters totaled at least $45 million in uninsured damages in the nine counties. Other counties in the governor's original proclamation could still be eligible for assistance, depending on further damage assessments.

Topping the list was $20.7 million in damages to public facilities. There was more than $14.6 million in damages to private dwellings, including 82 homes that were totally destroyed, 350 that suffered major damage, and 450 with minor damage. Farms and the agricultural industry incurred more than $7.4 million in damages. Businesses incurred more than $2.3 million in damages.

The governor noted the total damages may end up being less than those caused by the floods of 1990 or the 1993 Inauguration Day windstorm. But there still has been a significant impact to people's lives, property and the environment.

"I'm also concerned there may be more damage in other counties that has yet to be assessed, particularly from the Dec. 12 windstorm, " Lowry said. "While assessments are being completed, though, I wanted President Clinton to know that local jurisdictions and the state need help recovering from the severe storms we've had."

Seven other counties are included in the governor's proclamation of emergency exclusively because of damages to state roads. Those counties are Benton, Ferry, Island, Kitsap, Klickitat, Pacific and Spokane. Flood and windstorm damages that occurred to state roads may qualify for disaster relief from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has informed FHWA that it will formally request emergency relief funds to repair flood damages to state roads, once estimates are completed. WSDOT initially estimates damages at $17 million dollars, but that amount is likely to increase when final estimates are completed.

Emergency repair work done on a state route within the first 180 days will be funded by FHWA at 100%; while permanent or temporary work done after the 180-day period will be funded at the normal participation rate for the route. For DOT routes this would generally be 86.5%

The Governor's request was sent to President Clinton through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) Region X office in Bothell. If the President declares a disaster, FEMA will implement provisions of the act, making federal assistance available to affected communities through the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

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For more information, please contact Mark Clemens, Washington State Emergency Management at 360-438-7737 (media only).