Oregon delegation seeks winter storms disaster declaration

WASHINGTON – Oregon’s congressional delegation is asking the White House to determine that weather-related losses across the state from January’s storms merit a disaster declaration.

A federal disaster declaration would trigger the ability for local governments and residents to seek federal aid, the lawmakers said Friday.

 “Communities in Oregon have suffered significant losses as a result of the January 7 through 20 snow and weather events, which have had devastating consequences on our local economies,” wrote Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden, Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader. “This relief is desperately needed by these communities, to rebuild Oregon’s towns and economies.”

The seven lawmakers noted in their Thursday letter to the White House that their request supports Gov. Kate Brown’s request for a statewide disaster declaration, as well as more targeted help for Baker, Columbia, Curry, Deschutes, Hood River, Josephine, Malheur, Multnomah, Union and Washington counties.

The lawmakers estimated that eligible damages for those 10 counties totals $17.6 million.

“This very severe succession of winter storms included high winds, heavy snows, freezing rain, ice accumulation, heavy rains, flooding, and landslides,” the lawmakers wrote, “which all contributed to road closures, structural losses, loss of power and heat, needs for emergency services for the most vulnerable, and pressure on hospital and medical clinics already stressed by the needs of influenza patients.”