Disaster declaration heading to the president's desk

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Barry County included in Gov. Nixon's request for infrastructure help, individual assistance

Barry County was one of 70 counties included in Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's disaster declaration last week, and the request is on its way to the desk of President Barack Obama.

Nixon requested the federal government declare a major disaster for 70 of Missouri's 114 counties as a result of the prolonged severe storm systems that have generated tornadoes, straight line winds, torrential rain, hail, flooding and flash flooding across large portions of the state since May 15. He also requested individual assistance for 15 of those 70 counties, including Barry County, which saw 30 businesses and at least a dozen homes damaged by floods on July 7 and July 9.

The storm systems, which brought record rainfall to much of the state, extensively damaged roads, bridges and other public infrastructure, along with homes and businesses, and resulted in at least 10 deaths, Nixon said.

"Beginning in mid-May, more than half of Missouri has been hit by a damaging and prolonged weather system that's brought record rainfall to much of the state and led to extensive damage to public infrastructure and private property and led to tragic deaths," he said. "Communities across the state have been hit with extensive response and rebuilding expenses. I'm asking that federal assistance be available to help with that effort."

Barb Sterner, Region II external affairs specialist for FEMA who is based in Kansas City, said Nixon's letter is sent to President Obama, but must go through a few channels before landing on his desk.

"The governor would send a letter to the president, [Barack Obama], that includes information about damages and costs," she said. "That information comes through the FEMA regional office in Kansas City, then to the Washington, D.C., office, and then to the White House. [Nixon] may ask for assistance for individuals and businesses, assistance for infrastructure, or for money for mitigation to prevent future damage."

Sterner said sometimes the process takes only a couple days, but since FEMA has observed damage in 60 counties statewide, she believes process may take a couple weeks.

Counties named in Nixon's public assistance request include: Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Audrain, Barry, Bates, Benton, Buchanan, Caldwell, Chariton, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cole, Crawford, Dade, Dallas, Daviess, DeKalb, Douglas, Gentry, Harrison, Henry, Hickory, Holt, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Laclede, Lafayette, Lewis, Lincoln, Linn, Livingston, McDonald, Macon, Maries, Marion, Miller, Moniteau, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Osage, Ozark, Perry, Pettis, Pike, Platte, Polk, Putnam, Ralls, Ray, Ste. Genevieve, Saline, Schuyler, Scotland, Shannon, Shelby, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Texas, Washington, Webster, Worth and Wright.

Counties where Nixon requested individual assistance include: Barry, Clay, Christian, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Osage, Ray, Ste. Genevieve, Stone and Webster. Each of those counties, except for Greene and Jackson, also is included in the request for public assistance.

Individual assistance means that eligible individuals and households can seek federal assistance for uninsured losses from severe weather and flooding. Public assistance allows local governments and eligible nonprofit agencies to seek assistance for response and recovery expenses associated with the severe weather and flooding.

Steve Walensky, Cassville Public Works director, said FEMA and SEMA looked at damage to city property, including the bridge from the Aquatic Center to the Greenway Trail, the trail itself, the city park and the low-water bridge on 7th Street.

"I took them to the bridge by the Aquatic Center first, then we walked the trail to the city park and ended on 13th street, where water had crossed over and eroded the back end of that road," he said. "We are still working on preliminary estimates at this time, and our estimates need to be refined."

Walensky said the only hard number he provided the agencies was $120,000 in damage to the bridge on 7th Street going into the city park, but he said that estimate will need to be refined still.

"I gave them the linear feet for the fencing at the ballparks and [the weight in tons of] dirt and rock for the Greenway Trail, and that information will help them develop a dollar amount," Walensky said. "They were very complimentary about how precise we were in knowing what we needed to repair."

Walensky said he is still working on an estimate for the bridge by the Aquatic Center, as he is looking up the original installation cost from 10-15 years ago, then adjusting it for inflation.

Gov. Nixon first declared a state of emergency in Missouri on June 18. The Governor's order activated the State Emergency Operations Center and enabled the state to mobilize its resources, including the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to assist local authorities.

Last week, the Governor extended the state of emergency until Aug. 14.

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