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Obama declares disaster in W.Va. after storms

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- President Obama issued a "major disaster declaration" for West Virginia late Monday afternoon.

The declaration will generate federal funds to help local communities recover from the damages caused by "severe storms and straight-line winds" between June 29 and July 1.

The counties designated for federal financial help include 45 of the state's 55 counties: Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Summers, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood and Wyoming counties.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said, "The president's disaster declaration will help to get the ball rolling toward recovery. I welcome the federal aid for emergency work and the repair of out state's public facilities and critical services."

Federal funds, Rahall said, can also be used to implement "long-term hazard mitigation measures to reduce the impact of future storms."

Rahall, ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House to get money to help the state every since the storms hit, leaving more than 680,000 West Virginians without power. 

Federal funds will pay to repair or replace public facilities damaged by the severe storms and power outages.

All 55 West Virginia counties are eligible to apply to receive federal financial funds to help reduce long-term risks to life and property from natural storms and hazards, under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Additional "designations" could be made in the future if ongoing damage assessments discover new problems.

FEMA, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security today, provides grants to states and local governments across the country to initiate and implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after major disaster declarations.

FEMA says the purpose of its program "is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster."

FEMA can fund up to 75 percent of the costs for projects in each state.

Rahall also said he invited Jimmy Gianato, West Virginia's director of the Department of Homeland Security, to testify today before the House Transportation Committee.

"His unique perspective will be most valuable as the Congress looks at long-range measures to help protect communities from future disasters," Rahall said.


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