OLYMPIA — As local jurisdictions continue to recover from a powerful December storm that brought heavy rains, strong winds, and a tornado in Clark County, Gov. Jay Inslee on Jan. 27 asked President Obama to approve his request for a Major Disaster Declaration to provide much needed assistance. The winter storm, which hit Washington state Dec. 1-14, resulted in costs exceeding $19 million to help remove debris and repair roads and other public infrastructure.
In his letter to Obama, the governor asked for public assistance to help defray some costs associated with the storm in the following 17 counties: Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Wahkiakum and Yakima Counties.
Inslee also requested a Small Business Administration physical disaster declaration for Cowlitz County.
“Just as several counties were beginning the expensive process of recovering from a powerful November storm, Mother Nature took another swipe at us a month later,” Inslee said. “I’ve said it before — our budgets are maxed out. Yet we still need to provide critical services to our citizens — like reliable power and drivable roads and highways. I’m hopeful the president will recognize our need and approve this request.”
Heavy rainfall amounts exceeded 20 inches in parts of the Olympic Mountains, while some lowland areas received as much as 10 inches. Runoff from the heavy rainfall resulted in rivers exceeding flood stage on more than two dozen rivers across the state, while landslides made dozens of roads impassable, including I-5 in Cowlitz County. The storm is also responsible for producing an EF1 tornado in Clark County, which damaged 36 homes and 2 commercial buildings.
If public assistance is approved, the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant program will defray 75 percent of the eligible costs of the emergency response, debris removal and permanent repairs to roads, bridges, public utilities and other public infrastructure. An SBA physical disaster declaration would make available low interest loans to businesses, private non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets.
In addition, the governor asked that the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program be made available statewide. The program provides funds for community planning and projects designed to limit or prevent future disaster damage.
Earlier this month, the president approved a major disaster declaration for 16 counties following a similar storm that hit the state during the month of November. Pacific County was not included.