Manchin seeks federal disaster declaration

By The West Virginia Record | Jun 12, 2008

CHARLESTON -- Gov. Joe Manchin on June 11 sent a request to President Bush asking him to declare a major disaster for 11 West Virginia counties, making them eligible for federal disaster recovery assistance.

The counties in this federal request include Barbour, Clay, Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Marion, Taylor and Tyler counties.

This follows Manchin's state of emergency declaration after severe storms, heavy rain, flooding, high winds, tornadoes, mudslides, landslides and lightning caused significant damage and disruptions in north central West Virginia from June 3 through June 7.

"Our state and local emergency officials continue to evaluate the residential and business property damage caused by last week's storms," Manchin said. "But it's clear that central West Virginia has taken a pretty hard hit that should qualify for federal assistance."

Two deaths have been attributed to the severe weather, and several hundred homes and dozens of businesses were affected. A considerable number of the flood victims are low-income and elderly, and will need assistance to recover, the governor wrote in the letter to the president.

About 50 families were evacuated and a lack of temporary housing is likely to be a problem. More than 130 structures were destroyed or sustained major damage, and many other homes lack water, sewer and basic utilities that make them uninhabitable. Roadways and other transportation routes, including a major east-west railway line, sustained millions of dollars in flood and subsequent slide damage.

The next step is to wait for the president's approval of the federal declaration, said Jimmy Gianato, director of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Once that is approved, Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives will be dispatched to the affected regions to assist citizens in recovery.

Per the governor's previous state of emergency declaration, the West Virginia National Guard has had as many as 150 soldiers in the region assisting with debris removal and other flood recovery efforts. The state Division of Highways is repairing roadways and also assisting with debris removal. The American Red Cross has provided shelters, food and disaster cleanup supplies.

"If we get the federal declaration, we'll notify citizens in the affected region and let them know how they can register for help," Gianato said. "Until then, we encourage everyone to continue to report flood damage to their local emergency management office and to their insurance companies."

The last federal disaster declaration for West Virginia was in May 2007, the result of flooding, mudslides and landslides in seven southern West Virginia counties in April 2007.

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