Emergency declared in region

Walla Walla and Garfield counties are among 16 to be hit by major storm damage last week.

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— Gov. Chris Gregoire has proclaimed a state of emergency for Walla Walla County and 15 other Eastern Washington counties hit by a series of storms last week.

The move could help open the way to receive federal aid to help repair roads, bridges and other structures damaged in west-central Walla Walla County by a fast-moving storm, said Jim Duncan, county emergency management director.

Along with Walla Walla, the counties included in the proclamation were Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Jefferson, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan, Pend Oreille and Yakima.

The storm that struck Walla Walla County late July 15 and early July 16 completely closed sections of three roads with mudslides and debris and left numerous others partially blocked. After touring the affected areas, county Public Works Director Randy Glaeser gave a "rough estimate" of about $1 million for clean up and repair.

The governor's proclamation directs state agencies "to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the event." Additionally, the Washington State Military Department, Emergency Management Division, is instructed to coordinate all incident-related assistance to the affected areas.

The Military Department has activated the state Emergency Operations Center, implemented response procedures, and is coordinating resources to support tribal and local officials in alleviating the immediate social and economic impacts to people, property, and infrastructure, and is continuing to assess the magnitude of the event.

Duncan said today the next step to receive federal help would be a declaration of an emergency from President Obama. Actual reimbursement would then come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The storm that struck Walla Walla was one of a series that moved through the region starting July 13, bringing high winds, severe thunderstorms and extreme rainfall. Residents in Walla Walla County reported anywhere from one inch to 21/2 inches of rain falling as the storm passed through.

One death in northeast Washington's Ferry County is considered storm-related, the governor said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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