Life in Bay Center on Willapa Bay

Living in a maritime fishing village in Southwest Washington state on Willapa Bay

Gov. Gregoire’s Letter to President Bush

Gov. Gregoire’s Letter to President Bush (in pdf)

Text version below

December 6, 2007

The President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

    Through: Regional Administrator

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Region X

130 228th Street Southwest

Bothell, Washington 98021-9796

Dear Mr. President:
Under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.36, I request that you declare a major disaster for the state of Washington. This incident came as the result of a series of three storms that moved through the Pacific Northwest beginning Saturday, December 1, and continuing with resultant flood conditions. The storms combined to bring significant snow to the lowlands and mountains, prolonged strong winds to the coast and mountains, and heavy rain to many areas. The magnitude and impact of the combined events are extraordinary.

On December 1, a rather cold air mass was in place over Washington State that was being maintained by a northerly jet stream plunging southward from Alaska and Canada. The series of storms was the result of a gradual transition from the influence of the northerly jet to a westerly jet, which was originating in the subtropics north of Hawaii. Thus, the first system that moved onshore on Saturday was rather cool and resulted in lowland snow. The second system, which was somewhat warmer and wetter, moved onshore late Saturday and early Sunday generating significant mountain snow and increasing lowland rain. The last of the three systems, which struck the Washington coast early Monday, was also the most powerful. It brought tremendous ocean waves and fierce winds to the coast, and torrential rain to both the lowlands and mountain areas on the Olympic Peninsula and in the Cascade Mountains. According to river flood gage data from the National Weather Service, floods of record occurred on the Chehalis River at Centralia, Grand Mound, and Porter; the Skokomish River near Potlach; and, the Elwha River at McDonald Bridge.

In response to the situation, I have taken appropriate action under state law, directing the execution of the state’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan on December 1, 2007 in accordance with Section 401 of the Stafford Act. I proclaimed a State of Emergency on December 3, 2007 for the entire state. The proclamation directed the use of state resources including the Washington National Guard and the State Guard to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political jurisdictions in an effort to respond to and recover from the incident.

On December 3, 2007, the state engaged FEMA Region X in a discussion on alternate ways to conduct a timely Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) given the limited access to affected areas due to high water. On December 5, FEMA agreed to allow their Individual Assistance PDA expert to conduct an aerial PDA over Lewis and Grays Harbor Counties from a Washington State Patrol aircraft. This assessment indicated the most severe impacts were to homes and businesses due to water damage to buildings and contents, compromised wells and septic systems, vehicles, and restricted access due to road damage.

Grays Harbor reported two fatalities: an elderly gentleman on oxygen died when the power went out and he ran out of oxygen; and another man suffered a cardiac arrest after a tree fell on him. Mason County reported one fatality for a man who was buried in a building due to a mud slide. Pacific County reported one fatality as a result of a fire started from a candle.
Flood warnings are still in effect for several rivers and floodwaters remain above flood stage in many areas. We have received reports of a large number of dairy cows and other farm animals drowning in the floodwaters and farmers whose pasture and croplands were inundated will need to clear debris from their land. About 44,950 storm-related electrical power outages affecting thousands of individual consumers occurred due to wind damage to major transmission lines and local distribution systems. Large areas also lost telephone service due to the loss of electrical power. The power and telephone outages were concentrated in Clallam, Grays Harbor, Mason, and Pacific Counties.

While I am not requesting the Public Assistance Program in this request, initial damage reports indicate many state and county roads have been severely damaged, as have several federally maintained highways. We will be unable to conduct preliminary damage assessments for the Public Assistance Program until after the floodwaters sufficiently recede and it is safe to survey the damage. As soon as that can be safely accomplished, I expect to forward a separate request for the Public Assistance Program, to include the three debris removal components of the Public Assistance Pilot Program.
I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments and that supplementary federal emergency assistance is necessary. I am specifically requesting Individual Assistance (including the Individuals and Households Program [IHP], Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training, and Disaster Unemployment Assistance), statewide Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, and Small Business Administration disaster loans.
The Washington State Hazard Mitigation Plan was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a standard state plan on June 29, 2007. The state submitted its Enhanced State Hazard Mitigation Plan for FEMA review on November 19, 2007.

I am requesting Individual Assistance for Grays Harbor and Lewis Counties, and statewide Hazard Mitigation. I fully anticipate requesting additional counties for Individual Assistance as more data becomes available.

The impact of this incident upon these two counties has been particularly severe. Both counties have been included in three major disaster declarations in the past 19 months — DR -1641 in May 2006, DR-1671 in December 2006, and DR-1682 in February 2007. In fact Grays Harbor County leads the state with nine major disaster declarations since December 1995, while Lewis County has been included in six. The demographics of both counties reveal a disability rate of 22 percent, approximately 15 percent are below the poverty level, between 10 and 15 percent are over 65 years of age, and their median household income is about $35,000 per year. It should be noted that the rural areas where much of the damage occurred has higher disability rates, more individuals below the poverty level, and the median incomes are $8-10,000 less than in the more urban areas of the counties. National Flood Insurance Program data shows that less than eight percent of the residents have flood insurance. The available housing stock is limited, as is access to services and voluntary agencies to assist with the long-term recovery needs of the affected people. A large number of rural homes have restricted access due to water over the local roads. Most of the rural areas are served by wells and mound septic systems, which are very susceptible to damage from floods. We expect to identify significant contamination issues due to various hazardous materials being dispersed by the flood waters. As noted above, widespread areas were left without electrical power or telephone service, including the Quinault Nation on the coast.
Preliminary estimates of the types and amount of assistance needed under the Stafford Act are tabulated in Enclosure A. I intend to implement the Individuals and Households Program – Other Needs Assistance as shown in Enclosure A. Estimated requirements for assistance from certain federal agencies under other statutory authorities are tabulated in Enclosure B.
I am including the following information on the nature and scope of the state and local resources that have been, or will be, used to alleviate the conditions of this disaster:

  • The Washington State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was staffed by representatives from 19 state agencies, FEMA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Coast Guard, the American Red Cross, the Washington Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster, and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services.
  • The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Washington State Patrol (WSP) coordinated to establish and staff road closures on interstate and state highways, including a 20 mile segment of Interstate 5.
  • The Washington National Guard and Air National Guard provided helicopter airlift support for multiple purposes, supported evacuations with high clearance vehicles,
    transported relief supplies to shelters, staffed traffic control points, provided aircraft refueling support at the Olympia Airport, a 100 kilowatt generator to power the Oakville water treatment plant in Grays Harbor County, communication support for Mason County, eight two-person teams for Hood Canal area residents, and 32 soldiers for EOC support teams to 4 counties, liaisons to 4 affected counties and the City of Centralia.
  • The State EOC Logistics Section filled requests for 56,000 sandbags (2,000 to City of Snoqualmie, 50,000 to Kitsap County, and 4,000 to the Hoh Tribe); activated the Logistics Section Deployment and Planning Branch in Montesano to support the organization of a Grays Harbor County staging area and Community Points of Distribution for emergency supplies.
  • The Washington State Department of General Administration coordinated the delivery of disaster supplies to Montesano and got quotes for bulk Meals Ready to Eat and water supplies for Grays Harbor County.
  • The State EOC coordinated significant search and rescue (SAR) actions throughout the affected areas with resources from the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Air Force, the State Department of Natural Resources, State Fish and Wildlife, and King County.
    • Missions included airlift of four hikers out of the Snoqualmie Pass area, the airlift of about 300 people in Lewis County, and transporting supplies to community shelters.
    • The Coast Guard support was particularly noteworthy as they provided some 13 aircraft and performed most of the Lewis County SAR missions.
      • The Washington State Department of Natural Resources provided a Type 3 Incident Management Team to Mason County, received and completed a direct request for sandbags for the Hoh Tribe, and provided SAR support.
      • The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife provided four jet boats and officer crews to the Lewis County Sheriff/EOC; two boats launched on SAR missions — some rescues were made in northern Lewis County; worked with Mason County EOC to find land routes to stranded residents of the Tahuya area who were sheltering in place.
      • The Washington State Department of Ecology hazardous materials responders are working on flood related hazardous materials calls around the state.
      • The Washington State Patrol Aviation Section flew missions over the flood areas with FLIR equipped aircraft and provided live video feed into the State EOC and recorded to DVD for later review.
      • The Washington State Patrol assisted with the transport of a satellite telephone from Stevenson to Cathlamet to get communications to the Wahkiakum County 911 center, and coordinated with WSDOT for the movement of essential supplies through the State Route 7 detour into Centralia and Chehalis.
      • The Washington State Department of Health coordinated with providers of drinking water and found that 23 water systems were impacted: 11 serving 1550 customers are out of water; 12 serving 18,000 customers have water but are on a boil water advisory; and an estimated additional 5 to 10 systems which could not be contacted are either out of water or are boiling water (estimate impacted customers between 200 to 500.
      • The Washington State 2-1-1 Information and Referral system is supporting state citizens needing storm related information in coordination with Red Cross, WAVOAD, Department of Social and Health Services, and other agencies as needed to provide additional information for citizens calling 2-1-1 for related information through eight regional call centers covering all 39 counties in Washington State.

Additionally, local resources used included but were not limited to:

      • Activated local Emergency Operations Centers included: Grays Harbor County, Pacific County, Lewis County, Mason County, Jefferson County, Snohomish County, City of Bothell, Clallam County, City of Seattle, Thurston County, City of Shoreline, Kitsap County, Squaxin Island Tribe, City of Olympia, City of Kent, Pierce County, Wahkiakum County, City of Renton, King County, Makah Tribe, Neah Bay, City of Kent, City of Bellevue, Whatcom County, Emergency Services Coordinating Agency, City of Lake Forest Park, City of Kenmore.
  • King County provided a helicopter for SAR support outside King County and also transported essential materials to community shelters.
  • Grays Harbor County crews cleared trees to facilitate getting power back on in the area.
  • The Grays Harbor Department of Health has been distributing safe food and has established crisis clinics for mental health clients.
  • Grays Harbor County is operating six unofficial shelters, responsible for housing and feeding hundreds of people.
  • Pierce County assisted Mason County with two helicopters and a state Type III Incident Management Team.
  • Pierce County deployed swift water rescue assets to neighboring counties to assist with evacuations.
  • King County Sheriff’s Office conducted search and rescue missions for hikers in remote areas.
  • Pacific County opened four shelters, and is operating two soup kitchens each day, and developed a public education effort to assist with the restoration of power in a stepped format to avoid further impacting electrical services upon a cold start of the system.
  • Kitsap County opened two shelters, distributed sandbags, provided access to areas cut off by working to re-open the 150 roads closed in the county due to water, debris or damage, and evaluated mudslides including building inspections.
  • Lewis County opened seven shelters in western Lewis County, and two in eastern Lewis County with a combined total of over 200 people served; Steck Medical Clinic took minor medical cases that could not reach the hospital.
  • Lewis County Department of Health and the Washington State Department of Health have been providing assistance.
  • Thurston County opened two American Red Cross shelters; animal shelters are available through Animal Services and Thurston County Fairgrounds.
  • Snohomish County opened one shelter; Evergreen State Fairgrounds sheltered animals.
  • The Emergency Services Coordinating Agency in northern King County and southern Snohomish County opened two shelters.

A combination of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, local churches, and county governments cooperatively operated 18 shelters in 7 counties and accommodated 770 people.
I certify that for this major disaster, the state government will assume the applicable non-federal share of costs required by Public Law 93-288, as amended. I expect total expenditures to exceed $2,989,920 in federal funds for repairs and replacements, and $635,291 in federal and state funds for Other Needs Assistance requiring a non-federal share of $158,823, in accordance with the table in enclosure C.

I have designated Kurt Hardin as the State Coordinating Officer for this request. He will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in damage assessments and may provide further information or justification on my behalf.
Sincerely,

Christine O. Gregoire

Governor
Enclosures

A – Estimated Requirements for Individual Assistance

B – Estimated Requirements for Other Federal Agency Programs

C – Governor’s Certification

D – Governor’s Proclamation
cc:

Washington State Congressional Delegation

Washington State Legislators from Affected Counties

County Commissioners from Affected Counties

Emergency Management Directors from Affected Counties

Office of Financial Management

….. end

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