Disaster Declaration Issued By The President

Tuesday, December 18th 2007, 4:35 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- President Bush has issued a major disaster declaration for seven Oklahoma counties that suffered serious ice storm damage, the governor's office said Tuesday. The finding clears the way for federal funds to reimburse state and local governments for storm cleanup and infrastructure repairs in the affected counties of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Pottawatomie, Wagoner, Cleveland, Lincoln and Mayes.

Paul Sund, a spokesman for Gov. Brad Henry, said state officials plan to ask for additional counties to be added to the disaster declaration as damage assessments are completed.

"Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans know all too well that the ice storm was of historic proportions," Gov. Brad Henry said. "Federal assistance is deserved and needed for numerous communities throughout our state, and I am grateful to the President for his quick response."

Statewide, about 76,000 homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday afternoon, 10 days after freezing rain sent trees crashing into power lines across a wide area of central and eastern Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

More than 600,000 homes and businesses in the state were without power immediately after the storm. It was the worst blackout in state history.

The state Medical Examiner's office said the storm contributed to at least 27 deaths in the state, 16 in traffic accidents, eight in fires, two from carbon monoxide fumes and one from hypothermia.

The president had previously declared an emergency declaration for the entire state, allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send aid to the state, including power generators, bottled water, cots, blankets and prepared meals.

Dozens of shelters, including one at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City, were set up across the state to feed and house people whose homes were blacked out in freezing weather.

Governor Henry has estimated damage from the storm will exceed $200 million.