Gregoire on storm recovery: "We're in for a long haul"
The dirty work of recovery is under way, but Gov. Christine Gregoire warned Monday that the hardest-hit communities face months of rebuilding...
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The dirty work of recovery is under way, but Gov. Christine Gregoire warned Monday that the hardest-hit communities face months of rebuilding from the state's worst flooding disaster.
"We're in for a long haul," Gregoire said. "It's not about days or weeks. This is about months of recovery."
And Gregoire said she expects frustrations to run high.
"It is emotional. I can't tell you how many people have broken down with me, in a flood of tears," she said. "It is a time now where people are in immediate need and they will not understand why [the federal government] can't get them a check — today."
Gregoire and her staff outlined steps the state and federal government are taking to help.
Lewis and Grays Harbor counties have been declared federal disaster areas, which clears the way for emergency food stamps, unemployment benefits, federal aid up to $28,800 for uninsured homeowners, and low-interest federal loans. More counties may be added later.
The individual assistance is available to renters, homeowners and businesses that suffered storm-related damage.
The governor spent the weekend with members of the state's congressional delegation and federal officials reviewing the damage caused when a drenching storm last week pushed rivers over their banks.
Initial estimates indicate that more than 300 homes were destroyed or badly damaged by the storms in Lewis and Grays Harbor counties alone. In addition, more than 1,600 livestock have been lost.
The head of the state National Guard and the state's top emergency-management leader, Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, said a joint field office will open by Wednesday or Thursday, providing a local staging area for state and federal relief workers.
More than 100 National Guard troops still were involved in recovery work, including delivering supplies and directing traffic. Troops did 1,000 home checks, brought in portable showers and supplied tarps to cover roofs.
Lowenberg said troops also still were conducting welfare checks on people, especially along the Pacific Coast, where about 700 utility customers still were without electricity.
FEMA relief: People seeking help from Federal Emergency Management Agency should call 1-800-621-FEMA or go to www.fema.gov to report their losses.
Once a report has been made, the agency will send someone out within a few days to verify the losses, said Charlie Henderson, a FEMA spokesman. Those who qualify for aid should get a check within eight to 10 days, Henderson said.
Officials advise applicants to save disaster-related expense receipts. To get the full grant available, applicants will have to demonstrate at least $28,800 in uninsured losses.
Cleanup: Ecology Director Jay Manning is asking flood victims not to burn their damaged carpet, furniture and other household items.
"It can produce toxic air pollutants. There's foam rubber in that furniture. There are flame retardants in that furniture. It creates a health risk for that homeowner. In these stagnant air conditions it creates a health risk for the community," he said.
Manning said the state hopes to have work crews available soon to help residents move household debris to the street side of their homes so that trucks can pick it up and dispose of it properly.
People are urged to call county officials to see what arrangements can be made. The number in Lewis County is 360-740-1152. In Grays Harbor County, residents should call 360-249-3911.
People who have dead animals or livestock that need to be removed should call the same numbers.
Food stamps: Emergency food stamps are available to many residents affected by the flood who normally aren't eligible.
To qualify, a family of four must make less than $2,295 month. But residents can deduct lost income, disaster-related expenses and even damage to their homes to meet the income guidelines.
A family of four can get $542 in food stamps for the month.
Applicants must live or work in Grays Harbor or Lewis counties and have suffered a disaster-related loss. They also must apply for the benefit in person at a state office of the Department of Social and Health Services or the Home and Community Service.
People can go to 415 W. Wishkah St. or 503 W. Heron St. in Aberdeen, or to 3401 Galvin Road in Centralia or to 163 N.E. Hampe Way in Chehalis.
The application deadline is Dec. 21. For more information call 1-877-980-9180.
Unemployment: Unemployment benefits are available to people in Lewis and Grays Harbor counties whose employers closed due to the disaster, and to those who were laid off because of the storm. Self-employed workers also can get help. Call 1-800-318-6022.
Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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