With the federal government functioning again, local entities are now moving forward with the process of applying for assistance with storm recovery after the early October blizzard that dumped up to two feet of snow in some areas of the Panhandle.
The blizzard damaged power lines, roads and trees in cities and counties across the northern Panhandle and killed more than 3,000 head of livestock in Dawes and Sioux counties. Governor Dave Heineman declared a disaster area in the immediate aftermath of the blizzard, but a request for a federal disaster declaration was put on hold due to the government shut down.
Federal Emergency Management officials were in the northern Panhandle last week, however, conducting preliminary assessments, said Chadron city manager Wayne Anderson.
The storm that produced the blizzard also spawned tornadoes that caused damage at Wayne and Macy and heavy rains that caused flooding in central Nebraska. The storm damage across the state will be combined in order for Nebraska to apply for the federal disaster declaration, which would allow cities and counties to recoup some of their costs for recovery and repair.
“The general feeling when (FEMA) left is that we would meet the threshold on the federal side, and we have already surpassed the state threshold,” Anderson said.
The governor’s emergency fund will help offset costs to cities and counties even if the federal declaration is not issued.
The city of Chadron alone has incurred $101,705 in costs related to cleaning up after the storm. The council authorized accessing the city’s contingent reserve fund up to $146,000 to pay for storm clean up claims.
The state’s emergency assistance funds will pay for 50 percent of the costs for any claims over $70,000. Should a presidential disaster declaration be issued and federal funds become available, federal aid will cover 75 percent, state aid 12.5 percent and local funds 12.5 percent.
“It’s my hope that FEMA would come in to play,” Anderson said.
Al Berndt, director of Nebraska Emergency Management, said the state hopes to learn whether it meets the federal threshold shortly. Dawes County’s threshold is $31,000, and Sioux County’s is $4,600. The state as a whole must have $2.5 million in damages to public property in order to apply for the federal declaration. If the threshold is met, NEMA will make a recommendation to Governor Dave Heineman, who will decide whether or not to apply for the federal declaration and assistance.
All of Chadron’s city parks, with the exception of Wilson Park and the Community Garden, have re-opened to the public, said public works director Milo Rust.