Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recently requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government to assist with the ongoing recovery and repair efforts in West Virginia following the storms, which ripped through the state between June 29 and July 10.
“With the vast majority of West Virginians having their power restored, our efforts are now focused on cleanup and repair. That is why I am requesting additional assistance from the federal government,” Tomblin said. “If granted, this new declaration will provide financial assistance to our state agencies, counties, cities, towns and public service districts.”
The major disaster declaration would provide infrastructure repair, in addition to the federal assistance the state is currently receiving to address imminent health and safety concerns.
The line of severe storms, with near hurricane force straight-line winds, crossed West Virginia June 29 creating unprecedented damage to electrical and telecommunications infrastructure, with major power outages occurring in all 55 counties. Damage is still being assessed, but initial estimates show the financial losses, emergency response and repair costs could exceed the millions.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin support Tomblin’s request and have either spoken with or sent letters to President Barack Obama.
“I am urging the administration to pull out all the federal stops and get this request approved as quickly as possible,” Rahall said. “When I met with the president recently and talked with him about disaster assistance for our State, I pointed out how the damages we suffered are dramatically different and far more widespread than those from traditional natural disasters.
“In West Virginia, far more family budgets and businesses have been harmed than traditional assistance programs may readily recognize, and so I have asked that special consideration be given to these unusual and broadly felt effects,” Rahall said. “I intend to continue doing all that I can to help tap into every possible federal program that can address our losses.”
Manchin sent a letter to Obama.
“Within four hours, the June 29 storm crossed the entire State from west to east, causing severe damage in all 55 counties,” Manchin wrote. “The straight-line, hurricane-force winds that traversed West Virginia on June 29 resulted in unprecedented damage to my state’s electrical and telecommunications infrastructure. Nearly 680,000 out of 1,000,000 customers were without electricity, and suffered for days in scorching temperatures of nearly 100 degrees.
“The residents of my state were hit with a ferocious storm followed by days, and in some cases weeks, without electricity,” Manchin wrote. “With cell phone towers and power lines down, I am proud to say that, yet again, West Virginians pulled together in the face of adversity … I urge you to give every appropriate consideration to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s request, and extend much-needed assistance to the communities in West Virginia that are struggling to re-build.”
For the moment, FEMA and state emergency expert teams are conducting preliminary assessments on residential and private sector business properties. Tomblin reminds West Virginians these individuals carry official identification with them at all times.
“I encourage storm victims to work with these teams. The information collected and documented will help form potential future federal aid requests,” Tomblin said.
The governor has specifically requested public assistance including debris removal, emergency protective measures, roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings and equipment, utilities and other needs for the following counties:
Mingo, Logan, McDowell, Wyoming, Barbour, Boone Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Marshall, Mason, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Summers, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood.
He also requested Hazard Mitigation funds to be available to all 55 counties.