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White House Makes Presidential Disaster Declaration For Two Oregon Counties

Wolfram Burner

The Trump administration has issued a federal disaster declaration for Lane and Josephine counties, for damages incurred during December’s major ice storm.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, it’s welcome news for regional utilities, school districts, and government agencies. 

The ice storm caused widespread power outages, massive pileups of debris, and many schools and offices to shut down.  Assessed damages came to nearly $9.5 million.

With President Trump’s declaration, the federal government could cover up to 75 percent of those costs for affected agencies.

Credit Wolfram Burner / Flickr.com
Traffic courses through a damaged intersection near the U of O after last month's massive ice storm.

Linda Cook is the Lane County Emergency Manager. She told KLCC earlier this month how crucial a presidential declaration would be for easing the cost of recovery.  

“It’s really important for our local agencies to get this type of cost reimbursement so that the budgets of these agencies can stay whole," says Cook.  

"And they’re not having to divert money away from budgeted programs to having to cover these unexpected, extraordinary storm expenses.” 

Eligible agencies include EWEB, the Springfield Utility District, and the University of Oregon.  Cook expects to have more information later this week. 

EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood says their response cost them more than 4 million dollars, mostly in labor.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Utility crews remove frozen branches surrounding a power line.

“It’s a scary deal to be out there when the tree tops, and ‘widow makers’, and everything else is falling down," he tells KLCC.  "That’s always going to slow us down, we want to make sure everyone gets home at night.” 

Harwood says it’s one of the worst storms he’s seen in decades.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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