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Pennsylvania asks for federal disaster declaration amid Ida clean up

(Christen Smith – The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said this week he’s seeking a federal disaster declaration in the wake of widespread storm damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida that blew through the Northeast last week.

“This storm brought historic rainfall and flooding, as well as rare tornadoes, devastating many communities,” he said during a news conference in Bridgeport. “We believe we meet the federal government’s thresholds based on the damage assessments conducted so far, so this request is another necessary step in the process to recover from the impacts of this terrible storm.”

Ida dumped up to 6.5 inches of rain in some parts of the state last week, triggering widespread flooding and sporadic tornadoes and killing four people in Montgomery and Bucks counties. The administration estimates collective storm damage totals $117 million, so far.

“This storm has brought historic rain and rare tornado events to our commonwealth, and while cleanup continues, it’s important that we take every measure to determine whether we qualify for federal aid,” said Randy Padfield, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. “This request to the federal government is critical to helping households and communities recover.”

Padfield said the agency has spent the past week assessing the level of damage throughout the state as required for a federal disaster declaration. Varying degrees of destruction made the process move slower than in states where Ida’s impacts were more severe and apparent from aerial views alone.

“It really wasn’t a slam dunk for us,” he said. “When we have that, we have to put boots out on the ground to really assess the damage, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

The request follows Wolf’s statewide declaration signed Aug. 31. But federal recognition would allow individuals, businesses and public entities the ability to apply for federal aid to assist in the clean up and recovery process.

In his letter to President Joe Biden’s administration, Wolf asks for a major disaster declaration for individual assistance in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties. He also asked for public assistance for agencies in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Fulton, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties and for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to be made available to all counties.

“I remain grateful to all the first responders who risked their lives during the storm to help people, many of whom were impacted by the storm too,” he said. “I also thank those who continue to provide much needed support to individuals and families who are recovering from devastating losses.”

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