Area officials expect disaster declaration



The governor asked the president for the federal declaration.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Trumbull and Mahoning counties, hard hit by heavy rainfall this month, could be declared federal disaster areas by President Bush as early as Friday.
Gov. Bob Taft sent a letter Wednesday to the president requesting the designation, which will bring with it federal financial assistance for flood and tornado victims in Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage, Summit and Medina counties.
"I have determined this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments, and that supplemental federal assistance is necessary," Taft wrote to Bush.
Extent of impact
Columbiana County could be added to the list as well, said Rob Glenn, spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
Although damage assessment is still ongoing, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana officials estimate the damage at more than $6 million.
A presidential declaration of a major disaster would mean money would be available to those who were victimized by the recent major storm damage, Glenn said.
Some parts of the Mahoning Valley received nearly a foot of water, causing homes and businesses to be evacuated. A tornado that touched down on Youngstown's East Side last week caused about $1 million in damage alone.
Ohio EMA reports show that more than 250 homes in Mahoning and Trumbull counties received damage or were destroyed because of last week's weather. More thunderstorms are expected this weekend.
Earlier this month, Taft requested that eight Northwest Ohio counties be designated as federal disaster areas because of heavy rainfall. Bush made the declaration two days after the letter was sent.
The state expects to receive confirmation from the president as quickly for the affected counties in the northeastern portion of Ohio, Glenn said.
Distributing aid
If Taft's request is approved, Glenn said the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Ohio EMA will open a centralized office to assist people in the affected areas with relief applications, Glenn said. Also, smaller offices in the affected counties will probably open, he said.
FEMA would make available grants and low-interest loans to owners of homes and properties damaged or destroyed by the weather.
Columbiana County officials say they are hopeful state and federal officials can be persuaded to broaden the time period during which a flooding emergency has existed in the county.
Storms Sunday prompted flooding in parts of the county that caused more than $1 million in damage. County officials also are working on having the declaration expanded to include flood-related damage from storms that affected the county as far back as July 10, county commissioners said Wednesday.
If the federal government agrees to the expanded emergency declaration, the county could be eligible for even more aid, commissioners said.
skolnick@vindy.com

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