Washington state

Gregoire requests aid for Thurston, 10 other counties

Gov. Chris Gregoire asked President Bush on Tuesday to declare parts of Washington state a federal disaster area, r equesting that people in 11 counties become eligible for federal help following flooding earlier this month.

The request - based on a damage survey done last week - covers Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, King, Lewis, Pierce, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Thurston and Wahkiakum counties. Gregoire said additional counties may be added as officials continue assessing the damage.

"I'm asking the president to please act quickly upon our request and to begin the process of providing federal aid to these thousands of folks who have suffered from these floods," Gregoire said at a news conference.

She was joined by Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, head of Washington's Emergency Management Division, and Jim Mullen, state emergency director.

The White House directed inquiries on the request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A spokesman with FEMA's regional office did not immediately return a phone call late Tuesday.

104 homes destroyed

The preliminary surveys found that in those 11 counties, 104 homes were destroyed, 206 homes sustained major damage and 572 homes received minor damage.

Those homes were ones that either were uninsured, or had inadequate insurance, Lowenberg said.

The state has not yet compiled numbers on damaged homes that were insured.

Lowenberg said the uninsured and inadequately insured suffered an estimated $10.5 million in property damage and $1 million in personal property losses.

Gregoire declared a state of emergency for 24 counties earlier this month, authorizing use of National Guardsmen and allowing state emergency management officials to coordinate state assistance to counties in the flood path.

Gregoire's request on Tuesday seeks two types of disaster assistance. The Individuals and Households Program is for families and individuals to seek financial compensation, which has a cap of $28,200, Lowenberg said. It includes crisis counseling assistance and training, disaster unemployment assistance and Small Business Administration disaster loans.

"It doesn't make them whole, but it does address the immediate distress that they and their families are in," Lowenberg said.

Paying formula

The Hazard Mitigation Program uses a percentage of disaster assistance provided by the federal government to pay for projects to help prevent future disaster damage.

Public infrastructure damage surveys will begin Nov. 27, and will determine whether the state will request additional assistance in repairing damage to things like public buildings and water systems.

The state has seen a record amount of rain this month.

By Tuesday evening, the November rainfall at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had already broken the all-time wettest month record of 12.92 inches at that site, set in January 1953. By 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Sea-Tac rain gauge had recorded 12.98 inches, the National Weather Service reported.

Rain is expected to continue over the western part of the state through the holiday weekend, with showers today, and another strong system Thursday and Friday, bringing snow to the mountains.

"This is an unsettled time of year for us," D'Amico said, noting that a break in the weather could come on Saturday. "It's a stormy season. There's nothing too unusual about this."

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