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Palo Alto County Finally Earns Disaster Declaration

By Staff | Mar 23, 2010

It took lots of talks, wrangling and a bit of begging before officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed that Palo Alto County was worthy of being included in a disaster declaration. The decision to add Palo Alto County, along with five other counties hard-hit by the Christmas holiday snowstorm, to the Presidential  Disaster Declaration was finally made over the past weekend,

In a release from State Senator Jack Kibbie, Palo Alto County, along with Buena Vista, Dickinson, O’Brien, Plymouth and Pocahontas counties were all added to the Presidential Disaster Declaration granted Feb. 25, 2010, on the basis of the effects of the heavy snowfall sustained in the region at the end of December, 2009.

Palo Alto County had originally been notified back in January that it would be included in the declaration, but that decision was later rescinded in February by FEMA officials. State Homeland Security officials and local authorities lobbied FEMA after that until the latest reversal and reauthorization of disaster status was achieved at the end of last week.

By being included in the Presidential Disaster Declaration, federal financial assistance to state and local governments and certain nonprofit organizations (including rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities) for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities is possible. The initial counties eligible for public assistance were Adair, Audubon, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Emmet. Franklin, Fremont, Guthrie, Harrison, Ida, Monona, Page, Pottawattamie, Sac, Shelby, Sioux, and Woodbury counties.

Along with funding assistance for repairs to damage from the winter storm, Palo Alto county and the other five counties may be also now be eligible for snow removal assistance, in the form of reimbursement of costs for 48 hours of continuous operations for emergency snow removal after Christmas.

Federal Public Assistance program funds are available to public entities and select non-profit agencies to rebuild damaged infrastructure that may include roads, bridges, culverts, and other public facilities, or to cover costs of emergency work during the Dec. 23-27, 2009 storm. This declaration is not related to the ice storm that affected areas of western Iowa later in January.