OREGON COUNTY -- Oregon County is one of the 21 counties in southern Missouri that Gov. Jay Nixon asked President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster area in hopes of speeding the recovery effort after the disasterous ice storm that struck the area Jan. 27.
Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren and Southern District Commissioner John Wrenfow attended the annual County Commissioners meeting last week in Jefferson City.
"The governor thanked us for our prompt response to the storm and said he was requesting a waiver of some or all of the 25 percent of costs ordinarily paid by state and local governments after the issuance of a major diaster declaration.
On Jan. 30, the President granted Missouri an emergency disaster declaration in response to Gov. Nixon's request. That declaration allows the state to receive federal assistance to pay for costs related to the storm.
The declaration of a major disaster sought by Nixon Feb. 6 would allow affected counties and cities within those counties to receive millions in federal funds from disaster related costs.
Warren said as of Feb. 9, Oregon County Emergency Preparedness Director Eric King has estimated approximately $8.88 million worth of damage in Oregon County alone.
"Our roads are open but there is still a lot of clean-up that needs to be done. This has been overwhelming and we just don't have the manpower to cut the limbs and trees that have fallen due to the ice. We will have to hire outside workers. Hopefully this action by the governor will speed the process of receiving federal aid," Warren said.
The declaration of a major disaster by the president usually provides federal payment for 75 percent of disaster-related costs, while the additional 25 percent must be covered by the state, county and local governments. "The governor's request goes a step further by asking that some or all of that 25 percent local funding be waived," the presiding commissioner said.
King said the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and its federal counterpart, FEMA, have compiled up-to-date disaster assessments in all of the counties which have asked to be included in the major disaster declaration. Emergency management agencies estimate counties and cities along with electric cooperatives in southern Missouri have sustained in excess of $130 million in damages.
On a brighter note, Myles Smith from Howell Oregon Electric Cooperative said his crews finished restoring all reported outages caused by the ice storm Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. The cooperative will work on clean-up for weeks to come. Crews are replacing over 400 power poles that were damaged or on the ground after the storm.
"The storm will go down in history as the most severe ice storm to ever strike within the Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative service area. The morning after the storm, the cooperative saw 11,419 members without power and quickly had additional outside crews and all Howell-Oregon Electric crews working to restore power. Contract crews were dispatched from Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana which equated 175 men on the ground working," he said.
Smith said during the clean-up period, the cooperative needs to know if anyone knows of any limbs on power lines because they may cause a potential interruption of power. If anyone needs to report such damage they can call the cooperative at 417-256-2131.
As of Feb. 9, the city of Thayer and Mammoth Spring reported no power outages, although some rural Mammoth Spring residents who are supplied electricity by Entergy were still without power.