Early Storm Damage Tally for Ohio Reaches $29M

July 31, 2012

Early reports tallying damage from June storms in Ohio at $29 million have several Ohio cities anxiously hoping for federal disaster relief.

The estimated costs reported in the state from the storms total more than half of what Ohio tallied when remnants of Hurricane Ike hit Ohio in 2008, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The storms caused widespread power outages, strewed significant debris, and damaged public facilities and some rural electric cooperatives. As many as three people were killed.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be assessing damage to the affected counties starting Monday. Verification is expected to take up to 10 days, said Tamara McBride, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

It would then be up to Gov. John Kasich — who asked the federal government to review damage from the June 29 storms — to ask for federal relief. Damage assessments were requested in 38 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Money would go to communities, state agencies, cooperatives and certain nonprofits for their work providing relief, as well as to facility repairs.

Federal disaster-relief funds are likely if the total surpasses $15.5 million and communities meet other criteria, the Dispatch reported.

“This is the part that people hate the most because we just have to wait and see,” said Laura Adcock, who handles the program for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

Central and southeastern Ohio were hit hardest, according to the newspaper. Franklin County alone had costs for debris cleanup, police and firefighter overtime at around $5.5 million. Columbus had the largest bill in that county, with $3.8 million in storm costs.

Licking County also was hit hard and is seeking $1.6 million in recovery, while Fairfield County — including the city of Lancaster and South Central Power, its utility cooperative — had losses of $1.1 million.

Reimbursement, while not guaranteed, “is something that we’re really hoping for,” said John Kochis, Franklin County’s EMA director.

He said the money has already been spent by local governments that are going to have to balance their budgets at the end of the year.

“We weren’t in this financial quandary when we had Ike,” he said. “We definitely need it more now.”

The amount of damage is only one of the factors that go into the request. Other factors include how widespread the damage was, the type of damage and how many people were affected.

While the Ohio Insurance Institute has not yet released statewide figures on insured losses, spokeswoman Mary Bonelli says that anything over $25 million is considered to be of “catastrophic levels.”

“From what we’re seeing, this will be well over that,” she said.

Officials warn that the estimates probably will change as jurisdictions continue to find more damage. This week’s FEMA assessment also might change the numbers.