- - Monday, July 23, 2012

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has requested $25 million in federal disaster assistance to help the state recover from the severe storms that swept the region the weekend of June 29.

The storms contributed to the deaths of 15 people and cut electricity to 1.3 million consumers — the third most in Virginia’s history — and closed 217 roads.

Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management has calculated about $25 million in response costs so far, surpassing the $11 million minimum needed to apply for disaster assistance, said spokesman Bob Spieldenner. The minimum cost comes from a formula based on population and calculated for each place.

If the funds are granted, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse state and local agencies for the cost of emergency response and damage repair caused by the derecho — the violent storm on June 29 — and less severe storms in the following days.

“It’s never a guarantee. We’re very hopeful about it based on our numbers,” Mr. Spieldenner said.

Funds will go toward expenses, including overtime hours for emergency crews, debris removal and repairs to electrical systems and publicly owned roads.

A percentage of the total amount from FEMA would go toward a hazard-mitigation program to minimize damage from future storms. In the past, Virginia has used that funding to elevate homes to prevent flooding, Mr. Spieldenner said.

Mr. McDonnell requested aid for 38 counties and 15 cities, including Arlington County and the cities of Fairfax and Manassas Park. As the FEMA aid process goes forward, more localities can be reimbursed if they qualify.

“You had so much widespread damage, significant damage and significant cost, that the governor felt that there was sufficient information available that we could go ahead and apply,” said McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell.

Once FEMA approves the initial assessment of damages, a more detailed process takes place. Local agencies and governments submit itemized costs to be reimbursed. If costs are more or less than anticipated, the federal funding will be adjusted.

If the request is denied, Mr. McDonnell will appeal, Mr. Caldwell said.

In 2011, Virginia received aid for damages caused by the August earthquake and Hurricane Irene. Its request and subsequent appeal for funds after the April tornados were denied.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency is in the process of compiling expenses incurred by the state’s local agencies in response to the same storms, spokesman Ed McDonough said. If they meet the requirement, they will apply for FEMA aid, he said.

Mr. McDonough said the agency hopes to have a cost estimate by the end of the week.

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