Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Disaster declaration window to close Aug. 10

After four months of storms, floods and even a tornado, the federal government said Tuesday that it will close North Dakota's presidential disaster declaration period on Aug. 10.

After four months of storms, floods and even a tornado, the federal government said Tuesday that it will close North Dakota's presidential disaster declaration period on Aug. 10.

The date coincides with the deadline for applying for individual aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It also accounts for additional flood damage expected in the Devils Lake area, said FEMA's Justo "Tito" Hernandez, federal coordinating officer for the North Dakota disaster.

"We want to give ample space for those damages to occur and for us to be able to cover those damages," he said.

The presidential disaster declaration was granted March 24 for 34 counties and two tribal nations. It's since been expanded to 48 of the state's 53 counties.


Hernandez said he can't say for sure if it's the longest open disaster period in the nation's history, "but it's definitely close."

Hernandez announced the Aug. 10 closing date Tuesday during a recovery operations meeting at the state Department of Emergency Services offices in Bismarck.

State Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz said state officials originally picked Aug. 15 as a milestone date because the level of Devils Lake is usually stabilized by then as summer rains taper off and evaporation increases.

When FEMA came back with the Aug. 10 date, "we thought that was pretty realistic," Wilz said.

"Essentially, what that means is that from that date forward, any damages or any request for assistance will no longer be accepted by FEMA," he said.

Devils Lake is lingering at about 1,450.5 feet above sea level - more than a foot higher than the previous record set in May 2006. The lake, which has more than tripled in size since 1993 and swallowed thousands of acres of farmland, has shown no signs of receding this summer, but this is the time of year when it should start to happen, said Mike Lukes, hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

Wilz said North Dakota was "on uncharted ground" in terms of how long the disaster period was open when a tornado hit Dickinson on July 8, damaging or destroying more than 400 properties.

"We were again in kind of a peculiar situation in that it was an event that fell within the open disaster window, so it should have qualified," he said. "But at the same time, there'll be those folks that'll tell you it was a separate meteorological event. But enough people weighed in on it that FEMA actually allowed us to include it."


Hernandez agreed it was odd for FEMA to include the tornado in the March declaration, but he said it was part of a larger effort to cover flooding and storm damage in all of western North Dakota.

"It was the right thing to do," he said.

Keeping the disaster period open in no way precludes public entities or individuals from seeking and receiving FEMA assistance, Department of Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong said.

As of last Friday, FEMA had disseminated $7.2 million in individual assistance to North Dakota homeowners and renters during the current disaster period, while the Small Business Administration had doled out almost $12 million in low-interest loans to individuals and businesses, she said.

The DES has received 278 funding requests to repairs roads, bridges, culverts and other infrastructure, and FEMA has obligated $10.9 million for 117 of the projects so far, Fong said.

The incident period for Minnesota's presidential disaster declaration closed on June 9. FEMA has received 1,355 applications and distributed more than $2.2 million in individual assistance to people in the disaster area, which covers 28 counties and two tribal nations, spokeswoman Marquita Hynes said.

The agency also has obligated more than $5.3 million for public assistance projects and is still processing requests, she said. The federal government covers 75 percent of project costs.

Wilz and Hernandez urged those who incurred flood damage but haven't applied for assistance to phone the FEMA hotline at (800) 621-3362.


North Dakota disaster declarations frequent

Since 1993, North Dakota has had a major disaster declaration in every year except 2008, with multiple declarations in five of those years.

The state has tallied 37 disaster declarations since the Federal Emergency Management Agency began doing the declarations in 1953, ranking it 24th among the states. Texas leads the way with 83 declarations.

Following are the disaster declarations since 1993 and why they were issued:

  • 03/24/2009: Severe storms and flooding
  • 09/07/2007: Severe storms and a tornado
  • 09/07/2007: Severe storms and tornadoes
  • 07/17/2007: Severe storms and flooding
  • 06/05/2006: Severe storms, flooding and ground saturation
  • 01/04/2006: Severe winter storm
  • 11/21/2005: Severe winter storm and record and/or near record snow
  • 07/22/2005: Severe storms, flooding and ground situation
  • 05/05/2004: Severe storms, flooding and ground saturation
  • 08/01/2003: Severe storms and high winds
  • 09/10/2002: Severe storms, tornadoes and flooding
  • 05/28/2001: Floods
  • 12/29/2000: Winter storm
  • 06/27/2000: Severe storms and flooding
  • 06/08/1999: Severe storms, tornadoes, snow and ice, flooding, ground saturation, landslides and mudslides
  • 06/15/1998: Flooding and ground saturation
  • 04/07/1997: Severe storms/flooding
  • 01/12/1997: Severe winter storms/blizzards
  • 06/05/1996: Flooding
  • 05/16/1995: Severe storms, flooding, ground saturation
  • 07/01/1994: Severe storm, flooding
  • 07/26/1993: Flooding, severe storms

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

What To Read Next
Get Local