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Posted July 27, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

FEMA declares Va. disaster, relief available

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Virginia localities hit by last month's derecho wind storm could receive federal money to help cover clean-up costs.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday that financial aid has been made available to Virginia and eligible local governments as well as certain private, nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis. Aid recipients can use the money for emergency work as well as for repair or replacement of facilities damaged or destroyed by derecho, according to FEMA.

Gov. Bob McDonnell sought federal disaster designation and relief for more than 40 cities and counties in Virginia. The governor included in his request Winchester and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren.

Severe storms and straight-line winds, known as a derecho, ripped through Virginia June 29. The state and local governments as well as utility providers spent days and even weeks cleaning up the destruction left in derecho's path. These efforts for some localities meant spending money repairing or replacing equipment as well as paying overtime to staff.

The Virginia Department of Transportation cleared debris from most county roads including Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren. But some counties had other responsibilities. Crews for Shenandoah Valley and Rappahannock Electric Cooperatives also worked to clear debris.

Warren County officials estimate the local costs at less than $10,000 for cleaning up some debris, according to County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley. Maintenance staff inspected roads and cleared minimal amounts of debris in Shenandoah Farms, Stanley has said. The Fire and Rescue Department helped set up cooling centers though volunteers manned the stations. The county incurred costs from grinding brush brought by residents to the transfer station.

Shenandoah County officials estimated the storm damage and clean up at $54,458, according to the Department of Fire and Rescue. That amount includes costs incurred by the Department of Parks and Recreation of $35,200 which is insured. The remaining amount covers debris removal and emergency protective services.

New Market Town Manager Evan Vass said earlier this week the locality will ask for aid in recouping costs from the storm. The town spent approximately $2,000 to remove debris, $900 in overtime expenses and $500 for other costs. Insurance should cover $32,000 set of bleachers tossed by the wind into the infield and destroyed, according to Vass.

"Any federal and/or state help that's offered we want to take advantage of so we will be submitting our costs," Vass said.

Mt. Jackson incurred costs of $1,881.65, which included $1,546.65 to cover emergency protective measures such as overtime pay and other expenses. The remaining amount is the cost to public utilities and park and recreational facilities.

Winchester officials continue to assess the damage and calculate the cost to clean up debris -- an effort that took weeks. The city doesn't receive the same road coverage as counties.

The two electric cooperatives estimated their efforts to clean up and restore power to customers cost a total of $3.7 million.

FEMA also made available federal funding on a cost-sharing basis to help counties and cities pay for hazard mitigation measures, the release states.

The agency named Donald L. Keldsen as the federal coordinator officer for recovery operations in the areas affected by the storm. FEMA may make additional disaster designations at a later date if requested by Virginia and warranted by the results of further damage assessments, according to Keldsen.

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