President declares major disaster in Virginia for recent storms

Allen WorrellEditor

July 27, 2012

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved federal disaster assistance for Virginia to help 62 local governments and the state recover from the severe storms and straight-line winds that affected the Commonwealth June 29-July 1.

Governor Bob McDonnell requested federal aid through FEMA’s Public Assistance program, which reimburses local and state governments on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities.

Under this approval, FEMA’s Public Assistance program is available to 62 counties, including Carroll.As local and state emergency management officials continue to compile storm damage information, additional local governments may be added for Public Assistance at a later time.

Some costs that are eligible for reimbursement include activation of emergency crews to respond to the storm; opening of cooling centers and shelters; debris removal; repairs to publicly-owned property such as roads, water and sewer systems; and damage to electrical systems.

FEMA also approved Governor McDonnell’s request for the Hazard Mitigation program for use statewide. This program provides funds for projects sponsored by state and local governments that help reduce disaster risks by protecting homes and businesses against future damage.

Virginia was not eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program, which provides aid to individuals and families with uninsured losses, because most private property that was damaged was insured.

Carroll County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Mock said he initially met with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and FEMA in recent weeks as they gathered information to see if Virginia would be designated as a disaster area for the powerful wind storms that hit the area Friday, June 29 and Sunday, July 1. Locally, at least two cooling shelters were opened as many people in the area lost power for nearly an entire week. With winds in excess of 65 miles per hour, trees were downed all over the county, with many homes and vehicles damaged, especially in Hillsville and the Coulson Church Road areas of the county.

“Now that the declaration has been made, there will be another group of FEMA folks and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management that will come back and work with us to determine what the actual expenses were we had here,” Mock said. “Eligible for refund would be any county employees or town employees that worked overtime, the localities might be eligible for refunds. Vehicles that were utilized or generators that were operated, there will be dollars allowed for that type of thing as well.”

Another good thing about the disaster declaration, Mock said, was agencies such as the Virginia Department of Transportation and Appalachian Power would also be eligible for federal funds for their expenses in cleaning up after the storm’s aftermath, etc.

“So hopefully they won’t have to pass that expense on to their customers,” Mock said. “(The emergency declaration) is not surprising because the initial assessment, one figure I saw was over $25 million, which exceeds the amount that would qualify for a presidential declaration.”

As of Friday when the major disaster declaration was made, Mock said he was unsure of the amount of funds Carroll County would be eligible to receive. He said he is still getting information from county departments such as the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Social Services to determine how much overtime was worked.

“I think it’s good for the county that we got included because that will mean that we will most likely get some of the money back,” Mock said.