Obama declares West Virginia disaster
Marlinton, W.Va. – As a result of the June 29 windstorm, President Barack Obama declared 45 counties in West Virginia, including Pocahontas County, a major disaster area. The declaration makes federal money available to pay for up to 75 per cent of approved public projects, which may include debris removal, emergency protective measures and public services, repair of damaged public property, loans needed by communities for essential government functions and grants for public schools.
Pocahontas County Emergency Management Director Shawn Dunbrack explains.
“The information we’ve been given, so far, the only disaster that has been declared was for what they call public assistance, which strictly means that gives benefits to state, county and local resources, such as county government, municipalities – any expenses they had incurred in cleaning up after this storm,” he said.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to request further federal aid – the individual assistance program – which includes grant money and services for individuals who incurred uninsured property damage and losses.
Dunbrack and other officials completed a damage assessment in Pocahontas County last Friday.
“This was just a preliminary damage assessment, which means they came in, saw all that damage” he said. “They took their numbers and figures back and turn those into their respective counterparts at state and federal levels to determine if assistance is available.
“We met with a FEMA representative – also an SBA – Small Business Association representative and a West Virginia Department of Homeland Security representative. We visited all across the county. We looked at anyone who called in damage reports to our phone number. We went to all of those sites and looked at all those that were declared as major or had damage to their homes. We drove pretty much the entire county and looked at all the damages.
“The Hillsboro area and parts of Huntersville were pretty much the worst areas we saw. Of course the worst damage would be the one home in Hillsboro, who lost their entire home. It was completely blown away. A lot of people had some pretty big chunks of roofing missing – that type thing. A couple houses with some big holes in the roof. The majority of the damage was just tree limbs down – that kind of thing – which FEMA doesn’t give any assistance with. Their main concern was people who have completely lost their homes or the inability to live in their home.”
Dunbrack says FEMA will set up a field office nearby if the agency approves individual assistance for Pocahontas County.
“Once that happens – if there is an individual declaration – then there will be FEMA representatives, either in the area or in a regional location, which may end up being Lewisburg or somewhere like that – who will meet with local persons who have had damages to determine if they are eligible for reimbursement for those damages that they had,” he said.
FEMA will approve a governor’s request for individual assistance on a by-county basis. In October last year, FEMA approved individual assistance for five Iowa counties hit by floods, but denied individual assistance for one county.