New York State Governor David A. Paterson announced yesterday that President Barack Obama has issued a major federal disaster declaration for Nassau, Orange, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties as a result of damages and costs incurred during last month’s costly Nor’easter.
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 Nassau, Orange, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties. Additional county designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments, according to the declaration.
“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,” Gov. Paterson said in a statement. “I thank President Obama and FEMA Administrator Fugate for their quick response which will help these communities continue on the road to recovery.”
The storm system that struck New York 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, blocked roadways and damaged homes and property. 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 storm’s outset, Gov. Paterson activated the State Disaster Plan and directed state agencies to provide all assistance possible to affected counties, his office said. 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, according to the governor’s office. Gov. 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, it added.
Gov. Paterson also requested technical assistance from FEMA March 15 in the form of personnel to conduct joint damage assessments in the six counties, said his office. Preliminary impact information from the rapid joint assessment of the affected counties indicates more than $85 million in damages and costs.