Governor David A. Paterson today announced that President Obama has issued a major federal disaster declaration for the counties of Nassau, Orange, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester as a result of damages and costs incurred during the last month's storm.
"The receipt of this federal disaster assistance is welcomed news for the State and these counties which have been repeatedly hit by storms over the last four months," Governor Paterson said. "I thank President Obama and FEMA Administrator Fugate for their quick response which will help these communities continue on the road to recovery."
The declaration makes federal funding available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm in the counties of Nassau, Orange, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester. According to the declaration, additional county designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
The storm system that struck the State beginning March 13 produced torrential rains accompanied by sustained 50 mph winds with hurricane strength gusts that uprooted thousands of trees, toppled utility poles, took down power lines and blocked roadways. Tragically, it led to two deaths, in Suffolk and Westchester counties. At the height of the storm, more than 270,000 customers were without power and the utility companies were unable to restore service to all customers for over a week. Representatives from Consolidated Edison and the Long Island Power Authority told the State that this storm was the most damaging event in more than 30 years.
At the outset of the storm, the Governor activated the State Disaster Plan and directed State agencies to provide all assistance possible to affected counties. The Departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation, Thruway Authority, Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, and State Police activated their storm response plans and worked closely with local governments in the affected counties. The State Emergency Management Office dispatched personnel to the counties to provide technical advice and coordinate State agency response operations. Governor Paterson designated John R. Gibb, Director of the New York State Emergency Management Agency, as State coordinating officer and directed him to coordinate delivery of disaster relief assistance with FEMA.
The Governor also requested technical assistance from FEMA on March 15 in the form of personnel to conduct joint damage assessments in the six counties. Preliminary impact information from the rapid joint assessment of the affected counties indicates more than $85 million in damages and costs.