Culver seeks Iowa disaster declaration
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Gov. Chet Culver is seeking a presidential disaster declaration for 28 Iowa counties, including Lyon and Osceola, saying snow and ice storms have already caused at least $26 million in damages.
Culver sought the declaration at a Friday morning news conference, calling the storms "historically severe."
Deb Goettig, the emergency management coordinator for Osceola County, said the county sustained little property damage as a result of the winter storm that hit northwest Iowa during the Dec. 23 to 27, 2009, time period.
"Because the storm happened at Christmas, it's a lot of overtime stuff," Goettig explained. She said the county, sheriff's department, and each city submitted its own estimation of dollars lost in excessive equipment use and overtime pay.
"We had near record snowfall for that time period," she said. In Osceola County, there was an estimated $146,956 spent on emergency protective measures, a category that includes snow removal and sheltering. The application also listed $17,077 in estimated utilities damages.
If the presidential declaration is granted, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials could begin working with Iowans in the next several weeks. David Miller, the administrator for Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management said there's no way to tell exactly how soon applicants would be granted relief, and said applicants won't necessarily have all their costs reimbursed.
"FEMA will conduct an applicant's briefing," Miller explained. "They'll write project worksheets, which are a documentation of work that's been done and get estimates of work (costs), if there's still work to be done."
Miller stressed the reimbursements are not intended for citizens.
"What we're looking at is damages to public facilities and eligible nonprofits, rural electric co-ops and municipal-owned utilities," he said, adding that actual damage costs were "probably significantly higher" than what counties reported.
Miller said the estimated cost of emergency protective measures submitted by Lyon County was $207,977. Lyon County officials were not reachable by phone Friday morning.
Most of the counties are in western Iowa. They are: Fremont, Page, Mills, Pottawattamie, Cass, Adair, Madison, Guthrie, Audubon, Shelby, Harrison, Carroll, Crawford, Monona, Calhoun, Sac, Ida, Woodbury, Franklin, Pocahontas, Buena Vista, Cherokee, Palo Alto, Clay, Sioux, Emmet, Osceola and Lyon counties.
A presidential disaster declaration allows for federal assistance to state and local governments, and it makes individuals eligible for low-interest loans and other help.
"We must continue our efforts," said Gov. Culver in a news release issued Friday. "I am committed to doing everything I can to help Iowans affected by the storms get back on their feet."
State assistance is available to those who feel they have been unfairly taken advantage of due to the storm. Iowans who believe they have been a victim of price gouging, may call 888-777-4590. Iowans with immediate needs may call the Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985, which can put them in touch with services providers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.