SPRINGFIELD – Citing the financial burden caused by record snowfalls in southern Illinois just before Christmas, Governor Rod Blagojevich today declared 17 counties disaster areas and asked the federal government for financial assistance to help those counties recover.
“For many of these southern Illinois counties, this is more snow than they usually see in an entire winter,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “Besides record snowfalls in more than a dozen counties, the area was hit with high winds that caused severe blowing and drifting and frigid temperatures – all of which made snow removal even more difficult. It also put a tremendous strain on the snow removal operations of the local governments and depleted their snow removal budgets with two months still left in winter.”
Blagojevich issued a proclamation Thursday declaring the 17 counties disaster areas and sent a letter to President Bush requesting snow assistance for the eligible units of government in those counties. If the request is approved, the affected governmental units could apply for reimbursement of 75 percent of their snow removal and emergency assistance expenses during their most critical 48-hour period of the snow event.
Counties declared disaster areas in the proclamation include Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Lawrence, Massac, Pope, Richland, Saline, Union, Wabash, White and Williamson. According to National Weather Service data, 13 of the counties experienced record or near record two-day snowfalls. The other four counties qualified for the declaration because they were hit with the same level of snow as an adjacent county with a record snowfall.
“December’s snowstorm created serious hazards for the people in southern Illinois, and those who worked so hard to clear the roads should be commended,” said William C. Burke, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). “It’s critical that we ensure that these counties are financially able to face whatever weather challenges they face in the future, and we hope this federal assistance will help them in that regard.”
If the request is approved, IEMA will coordinate the assistance application process with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To be eligible for snow emergency assistance, a unit of government needs to have incurred at least $1,000 in expenses related to the storm. Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to, snow removal, de-icing, salting and sanding roads. The federal assistance is intended for emergency purposes only, not for the total costs of recovery from the snowstorm.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will also be eligible for reimbursement of expenses related to the snowstorm if the request is approved. IDOT provided road clearing assistance by bringing in additional snow removal equipment and personnel from outside the area.