TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly announced Thursday that her request for a federal disaster declaration for the winter storms that occurred in late March has been granted, according to a media release from Kelly's office.
Governor Kelly made the request on May 3. Its approval will open federal funding streams for rural electric cooperatives to repair or replace infrastructure damaged by the disaster.
“This federal disaster declaration will enable rural electric cooperatives to access the funding they need to get back on their feet,” said Governor Kelly, who issued a Governor’s Declaration of Emergency March 20.
Counties named in the declaration are Barton, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Ellis, Ford, Graham, Gray, Hodgeman, Kiowa, Lane, Meade, Ness, Pawnee, Phillips, Rooks, Rush, Stafford, Trego, and Wallace counties.
The declaration allows rural electric cooperatives to apply for Public Assistance funds for emergency and permanent work for the repair or replacement of infrastructure, including utility lines, damaged by the disaster. It also activates the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program statewide for actions taken to prevent or reduce long term risk to life and property from natural hazards.
“Our staff in the Kansas Division of Emergency Management will be working closely with the counties named in the declaration,” Maj. Gen. David Weishaar, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, said.
This request was due to two late winter storms that impacted western and parts of central Kansas beginning on March 17 with impacts lasting into March 22. Each storm produced sticky wet heavy snow combined with strong winds of 50 to 70 mph that damaged power poles and power lines. Many power outages occurred especially during the second winter storm due to the previous storm’s damage to the utility infrastructure and rural electric cooperatives.
On March 31, due to the severity of the damage reported by local officials, the Kansas Division of Emergency Management requested a joint federal, state, and local survey of the damaged areas. On April 5, Governor Kelly requested an extension for enough time to complete the joint preliminary damage assessments which was approved until May 5.