Counties assess storm response, cleanup costs

Cattle form a line in the snow as they work their way to an afternoon feeding off South Middle Road in Mount Jackson following the recent blizzard. Area farmers report little damage from the storm. Rich Cooley/Daily

Area counties spent several hundred thousand dollars responding to and cleaning up last weekend’s snowstorm.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency for Virginia ahead of the winter storm. By making the declaration, the state can become eligible for federal disaster relief funds. Officials in Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties declared local emergencies, making each locality potentially eligible for relief.

Towns provided estimated costs associated with the response efforts and clean up from the storm. Counties submitted their costs along with those from the towns to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Cost estimates included overtime pay and other compensation provided to fire and rescue workers as well as law enforcement agents assigned during the storm.

Whether or not counties in the region qualify for aid and when they receive the funds remains uncertain.

Warren County reported a cost estimate of $329,000, according to information from Chief Richard Mabie of the Department of Fire and Rescue Services. The estimate includes the cost to assign more paid responders to volunteer stations, the Sheriff’s Office, snow removal in the county and maintenance in the sanitary districts, Mabie said. The total includes an estimate of $129,040 from Front Royal.

A dump truck releases a load of snow from the Shenandoah County Social Services lot on North Main Street in Woodstock last Monday. Area officials are now calculating storm clean-up costs. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We don’t have any real damage,” Mabie said Friday. “We didn’t have any collapsed buildings as some of them did a little further east and south of us and so forth.”

The county department called back paid responders Friday afternoon and they stayed through Tuesday – two days after the emergency expired – because it took a while to clear some of the roads, Mabie said.

Shenandoah County and its towns estimated that it cost approximately $140,500 to respond to and clean up after the storm, Gary Yew, chief of the Department of Fire and Rescue, said Friday. That estimate did not include figures from Mount Jackson or the county Sheriff’s Office.

However, the county needs to meet a threshold of almost $150,000 in estimated costs to become eligible for relief. The county might reach the threshold with totals from Mount Jackson and the Sheriff’s Office.

Specific estimates are as follows:
• Shenandoah County: $35,222
• Town of Edinburg: $12,403
• Town of New Market: $7,541
• Town of Woodstock: $34,271
• Town of Strasburg: $51,030

The county’s cost estimate consists mainly of overtime pay for paid responders. The department called back many of its responders who already had worked their shifts to help fill in at the volunteer stations.

“We had expanded crews and expanded coverage to be prepared for the challenges faced with responses with the road system being the way it was,” Yew said. “We knew that responses would be delayed because of the snow-covered roads.

“We knew that certainly that creates burdens for the volunteers trying to get to their stations and, of course, many of the volunteers had responsibilities with their employers and that type of thing in regards to the storm also so some weren’t available, actually doing snow removal with their employers,” Yew added. “Of course a lot of the volunteers have farms and that type of thing, you know, they had to see to the needs of the farms and such so that’s why we expanded our coverage and a lot of that was at the request of some of the individual volunteer agencies.”

The county still might meet the threshold if it falls with the 90 percent of historic snowfall totals as determined by the National Weather Service, Yew said. The county had not yet heard from the NWS on Friday if the locality met the snowfall threshold.

Shenandoah County farmers likely suffered little damage from the storm, Yew said, citing information from Bobby Clark, Extension agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Clark conducted an agricultural damage survey and reported no significant damage, Yew said. While the storm didn’t pose much of a threat to crops, given the time of year, officials were concerned with the safety of the livestock. None of the producers reported any livestock deaths, Yew said.

Clark looked at potential damage to agricultural structures. A poultry house partially collapsed but was being used as storage, Yew said.

Frederick County’s costs came in at an estimated $271,500, Karen Vacchio, public information office, said in an email Friday. The initial assessment of $112,000 covers greenhouses and other structures that collapsed or sustained damage, Vacchio said, citing information from Frederick County Fire Chief Denny Linaburg. Costs for snow removal and pay for personnel came in at $159,500. Officials expect the numbers to change as they receive more invoices for related expenses, Vacchio said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com