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News / Clark County News

Biden approves disaster declaration for Washington after January storms

Clark County among entities eligible for aid

By Amanda Zhou, The Seattle Times
Published: April 29, 2024, 5:29pm

President Joe Biden approved a federal disaster declaration on Sunday for several Washington counties following the January winter storms that caused widespread flooding, landslides, downed trees and power outages that affected over 100,000 people.

Washington declared a state of emergency for the 16 counties in mid-March, saying the storms caused more than $30 million in damage. In King County, the storms damaged schools, wastewater treatment centers and Swedish Health Services facilities. Wind-fueled waves and coastal debris also damaged over 6,500 feet of the popular Olympic Discovery Trail in Clallam County and washed away a 30-foot wooden pedestrian bridge in Deception Pass State Park.

The city of Port Angeles activated its emergency operations center on Jan. 8 as extreme cold set in, threatening vulnerable populations. A boil order was issued after a series of frozen pipes burst and major water lines broke.

Port Angeles City Engineer Jonathan Boehme said that the disaster funding could allow the city to get reimbursed for the damage from the storm, including nearly $200,000 that went toward restoring the water system.

The disaster declaration could also help the city pay for the $1 million needed to restore the Olympic Discovery Trail, part of which has been closed since the storm, he said.

“We have no funding available to be able to fix that at this time, without some type of FEMA funding,” Boehme said.

Between Jan. 5 and 29, storm systems brought coastal and river flooding, landslides, and windstorms to the region, including Western Washington’s first blizzard warning in over a decade, an ice storm in Southwest Washington, record-cold temperatures and downed trees and utility poles.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement Monday that federal disaster assistance is available for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Ferry, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Skagit, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties.

The money is intended to help local government agencies and some nonprofit organizations do recovery work and repair facilities damaged by the storms, but does not provide assistance to families or individuals, said Washington Military Department spokesperson Karina Shagren. Following the disaster declaration, government agencies apply for funds through FEMA.

“The damage caused by these successive storms has been extensive and overwhelming, leaving vital public infrastructure in both urban and rural communities throughout our state in need of significant repairs,” according to a news release from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who sought the declaration along with Gov. Jay Inslee and other officials.

Since 2018, Washington has grappled with 11 major disaster declarations.

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