The first federal aid for damage for the Nov. 17 windstorm was approved this week for Washington, but even a rough estimate of the damage to the Spokane area may be weeks away. Local emergency management officials are compiling data from local residents and businesses, and utility crews continue to clean up downed lines.
State officials will file a formal request for disaster relief money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in mid-December after compiling reports from local agencies.
“It’s in the millions. I just don’t know how many millions,” Gerry Bozarth, Greater Spokane Emergency Management spokesman, said.
That agency is seeking information on business and homeowner losses from local residents and businesses on its website as it tries to determine whether Spokane County will reach a threshold of $1.677 million that is one requirement for seeking aid from FEMA. The state must also reach a threshold of $9.8 million. Federal rules say Spokane can include losses by public utilities like Inland Power and Light, but not those sustained by the region’s largest utility, Avista, which is owned by stockholders.
Avista spokeswoman Laurine Jue, said it was too early to estimate the costs of repairing damage from the worst storm in the company’s history, with some crews still are doing cleanup work, and customers still reporting downed lines. At the height of the outages, Avista had about 180,000 customers without power and over a 10-day stretch had 132 crews from six states and Canada in the field with 700 workers.
Jue said Avista will be “in cleanup mode through the rest of the week.”
The first federal aid for storm damage, $1 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, was approved this week to help repair state and federal highways in Western Washington damaged by washouts and landslides. State transportation officials said there were no comparable reports of damage to roadways in the Spokane area, although they are compiling information on the costs of replacing many downed signs and damaged poles from near-hurricane force winds.
Transportation officials had asked for $5 million for the Western Washington repairs, a request that was supported by the state’s two U.S. senators and representatives from West Side districts.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said the U.S. Department of Transportation is continuing to assess need and could send more money in the future.
Insurance companies may soon have a tally of the number of claims they’ve received, but damage estimates will take longer, Kenton Brine, president of the Northwest Insurance Council, said. State Farm said it has more homeowners claims in Washington from the Nov. 17 windstorm than it did for all damages related to wind in 2014. As of last week, State Farm reported about 1,900 homeowners filed claims related to the windstorm, compared to 1,200 for all wind events in 2014.
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