Declaration Would Provide Federal Disaster Assistance for Local Governments in Erie, Genesee, Niagara, St. Lawrence and Suffolk Counties; Also Would Provide Funeral Assistance and Crisis Counseling for Communities in Western New York
From a Historic Blizzard in Western New York to High Winds and Heavy Rain Causing Flooding on Long Island, Catastrophic Late December 2022 Winter Storm Caused Far-Reaching Impacts
Governor Hochul Previously Secured a Federal Emergency Declaration on December 26 to Provide Initial Support for Response and Rescue Operations
Governor Kathy Hochul today requested a Major Disaster Declaration from President Biden to support the ongoing recovery of communities impacted by the devastating late-December storm, which caused historic blizzard conditions in Western New York, as well as significant coastal flooding on Long Island. If granted, this declaration would allow for federal financial assistance for communities in Western New York, the Finger Lakes, the North Country, and on Long Island to cover damages and some response operations. The Governor is also requesting direct funding to cover funeral expenses and crisis counseling for residents of Erie and Niagara Counties. This effort builds upon federal assistance already secured by Governor Hochul through a December 26 federal Emergency Declaration which supported response and rescue operations throughout the six-day event.
“I have submitted a formal request to President Biden to secure a Major Disaster Declaration to support communities across New York impacted by the devastating winter storm that hit our state in December,” Governor Hochul said. “Federal assistance will support my administration's ongoing efforts to help New Yorkers continue to recover from this once in a generation storm.”
A Major Disaster Declaration secures financial assistance from the federal government, primarily through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, to provide funding to local governments and eligible non-profits for debris removal, protective measures, and repairs to buildings and infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water and wastewater treatment facilities, critical infrastructure sites, schools, parks and other facilities.
Following a disaster, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ (DHSES) Disaster Recovery Unit works directly with counterparts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and impacted local governments to assess damages caused by, and costs related to, the disaster. Once these assessments are complete, FEMA validates whether the state and impacted counties have reached the required federal damage thresholds. Following that process, the Governor then requests a Major Disaster Declaration from the President.
With the damage assessment process now complete, Governor Hochul is specifically requesting:
- Public Assistance for Erie, Genesee, Niagara, St. Lawrence, and Suffolk Counties, including Snow Assistance for Erie, Genesee, Niagara and St. Lawrence Counties to reimburse localities for snow removal operations.
- Additional Funeral Assistance and Crisis Counseling for the residents of Erie and Niagara Counties.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “This historic storm began as a statewide event with a complex forecast of snow, ice, strong winds and extreme wind chill. These conditions created a nearly two-day blizzard in the Buffalo area that became hazardous for pre-positioned emergency responders, snow plows, and utility crews to navigate. Our team was proud to work alongside all of our emergency response partners involved in the event and I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Hochul to help our communities recover.”
In Western New York, there were 37 straight hours of blizzard-like conditions in Erie County, which is the longest recorded blizzard in the United States under 5,000 feet of elevation, and Niagara County experienced record-breaking snowfalls. A mix of heavy snow and high winds created zero-visibility conditions for nearly two days, conditions that were compounded by extreme cold and power outages. At the height of the storm, more than 80,000 households were without power. New York State agency personnel conducted more than 650 rescues in Western New York throughout the course of this storm and local officials rescued hundreds more. Despite the heroic efforts of New York’s emergency responders, 46 residents from Erie County and 1 resident from Niagara County tragically lost their lives.
On Long Island, high winds and heavy rains from the storm brought widespread coastal flooding in Suffolk County, leaving debris damage and thousands of power outages due to damaged infrastructure. Significant tidal surge also caused coastal erosion in the area.
Prior to the winter storm, Governor Hochul declared a statewide State of Emergency on December 23. DHSES and other State Agencies were in constant communication with the National Weather Service and local governments in the week leading up to the storm. DHSES’ Office of Emergency Management and Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the State Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, State Police, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation pre-deployed resources to the Western New York, Finger Lakes, and North Country regions ahead of the storm. Additional State resources were surged to heavily impacted areas, including a total of over 800 National Guard soldiers.
About the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services provides leadership, coordination and support to prevent, protect against, prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate disasters and other emergencies. For more information, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Instagram, or visit our website.
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