Disaster declaration underway

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The state is preparing to submit a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the form of a federal disaster declaration, which would include Charlotte County, for damages sustained during Hurricane Michael, said Commonwealth Regional Council Deputy Director Todd Fortune.

He said Charlotte County met the threshold to be included, however, it would be about a month on the timeline before an answer would be received to move the process forward.

“The Regional staff from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management gave us an update recently,” said Fortune. “They advised that the Presidential Disaster Declaration request for Tropical Storm Michael is expected to go to the president in December.”

He said the last date proposed was Dec. 11.

“They further advised that Charlotte County exceeded its threshold for damages to qualify for a disaster declaration,” said Fortune.

According to information from FEMA, all emergency and major disaster declarations must be made at the sole discretion of the United States President.

Emergency declarations and major disaster declarations will both provide authorization to the president in order to provide assistance supplementally, said FEMA.

“The president can declare a major disaster for any natural event, including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm or drought, regardless of cause, fire, flood, or explosion that the president determines has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond,” FEMA said.

The request also must be submitted by the Governor before it can be considered.

While FEMA said not all assistance programs are activated, depending on the request, assistance could include individual assistance, public assistance and hazard mitigation assistance.

Under the three categories, different programs could include individuals and household programs, disaster legal services, debris removal, roads and bridges, and taking action to prevent and reduce long term risk from natural hazards.

Fortune said during the Nov. 21 CRC meeting that the hope is that the potential public assistance funding from FEMA could go toward Drake Branch’s goal of rebuilding its fire department and town hall, which has long been affected by flooding.

“That’s very good news for Drakes Branch,” CRC Executive Director Melody Foster said about the potential assistance opportunity.

Charlotte County Cullen/Red House Supervisor and CRC member Nancy Carwile said there had been a business owner who lived on Drake Branch’s main street whose business and home had been largely affected by Hurricane Michael, and asked if the assistance could extend to personal cases in addition to those that affect the public.

Foster said assistance for personal situations was available.