Baldacci seeks ice storm relief funds

Posted Jan. 02, 2009, at 10:30 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci on Friday asked President Bush to declare a major disaster for seven counties after an ice storm that caused more than $4 million in public damage and knocked out electricity for more than 220,000 homes and businesses.

Baldacci made his formal request on the same day Bush granted New Hampshire’s request for a major disaster declaration after last month’s ice storm.

The governor waited until after Federal Emergency Management Agency staff reviewed the damage figures from state, county and municipal agencies to make his formal request for a disaster declaration, said Lynette Miller of the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

If granted, the federal government would reimburse towns, counties and state agencies for 75 percent of costs caused by the damage and cleanup.

Like New Hampshire’s declaration, it does not cover individual assistance for homeowners and businesses.

“This series of weather events brought out the best in Maine people, but the fact remains that there were great costs associated with the response and recovery,” Baldacci said. “I hope that federal resources will be available soon to alleviate financial stress to these public entities.”

Baldacci’s request that applies Androscoggin, Cumberland, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Waldo and York counties goes beyond the ice storm that struck on Dec. 11 to include other weather events including a Dec. 21-22 blizzard that dumped more than 3 feet of snow on parts of Maine.

The disaster period was extended to Dec. 29 to include the cleanup of tree limbs and brush and removal of snow, which took weeks to complete, Miller said.

Despite all the problems in Maine, the ice storm created far bigger problems in New Hampshire. Preliminary damage assessments compiled by towns and the state exceed $15 million.

At the peak, there were nearly 450,000 homes and businesses without electricity in New Hampshire in the worst ice storm in the state’s history. Some New Hampshire homeowners didn’t get their electricity back until two weeks later, on Christmas Eve.

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