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news release

P.O. Box 004
Trenton, NJ
Contact: Jayne O'Connor/Laura Otterbourg

RELEASE: August 14, 2000

Office of the Governor

Governor Requests Federal Disaster
Declaration for Morris and Sussex Counties

Declares State of Emergency

Governor Christie Whitman tonight requested a federal disaster declaration from President Clinton that will enable federal relief assistance programs to begin in Sussex and Morris counties - both areas devastated by flooding caused by this past Saturday's violent rainstorm.

In her letter to President Clinton, Gov. Whitman stated that the preliminary figure for damage to public facilities in Sussex and Morris Counties have totaled more than $7.2 million, enough to justify the state's request for federal assistance at this time. The Governor said these estimates are expected to rise considerably as additional infrastructure damage is uncovered.

Gov. Whitman also today issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in the same two counties.

A federal disaster declaration allows for the funding of disaster relief as well as funding for mitigation against future similar disasters. The Governor may request the declaration be expanded to other counties, if necessary.

"The flooding caused by the recent heavy rainfall has caused severe flooding problems in Sussex and Morris counties and has threatened homes, bridges and more - as well as the traffic flow in the area," said Gov. Whitman. "As Governor, my main concern is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents, and it's why I issued the executive order to make sure that emergency needs are answered."

"At the same time, I have appealed to President Clinton for a federal disaster declaration in Sussex and Morris counties so that federal assistance programs can begin here," continued the Governor. "Although the rain still keeps falling, we already have an emergency situation that needs to be addressed and can't wait."

Attached is a copy of Gov. Whitman's letter to President Clinton.

August 14, 2000

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Through: Mr. Joseph Picciano
Acting Regional Director
FEMA Region II
26 Federal Plaza, Room 1337
New York, New York 10278

Dear Mr. President:

It is with utmost urgency that I request that you expedite a declaration of a major disaster for Morris and Sussex Counties under the provisions of Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 93-288, as amended and implemented by 44 CFR Part 206.36.

This request is driven by the devastating impact of a severe storm system that stalled over northern New Jersey, releasing up to 14 inches of rain on Saturday August 12, 2000. Severe flooding began quickly and continues today. The storm rapidly overwhelmed local drainage systems and caused extensive damage which continues to severely tax State, county and local resources left bare from a very hectic storm season which began almost a year ago with Tropical Storm Floyd. Flooding and mud slides destroyed over a mile of the main water main for the Town of Newton in Sussex County, a community of over 8,000. Sussex County has declared a state of emergency. Municipal officials in Newton, Sparta and Jefferson Townships have issued water advisories urging the public to be wary of drinking water in the wake of Saturday's flood and subsequent flooding of many septic systems.

Flood waters and mud slides created extraordinary pressure on bridges, roads, and telecommunication resources, resulting in the destruction of numerous bridges and a substantial number of residential homes in this region of our State. Many bridges and roadways remain impassable. In Sussex and Morris Counties, a total of ten bridges remain closed. Portions of several communities have been isolated, complicating rescue and damage assessment efforts. Rising waters have overtopped and, in some cases, caused serious damage to dams on the many lakes in the region.

Further complicating the situation, heavy rain continues to fall throughout the northern and central portions of the State and substantial additional rain is forecast for the coming week.

To address the demands for assistance, the State Emergency Operating Center was activated on Saturday August 12, 2000, and the provisions of the State's Emergency Operations Plan were implemented to utilize the response capabilities of State agencies.

40 State Troopers were dispatched to assist local communities in Sussex

Over 50 New Jersey National Guard personnel and six vehicles were activated to provide support throughout Morris and Sussex Counties.

The State Department of Transportation regional assistance teams performed emergency repairs on major roads in the affected area.

The State Department of Environmental Protection Dam Safety and Water Control Elements performed assessments and provided assistance for dams and water systems.

The State Department of Health and Senior Services responded to requests for assistance on health and sanitation issues.

State Police Emergency Management Bureau Regional units deployed to county and local emergency operations centers to provide assistance.

On August 14, 2000, I issued Executive Order No. 117, declaring a State of Emergency in Morris and Sussex Counties. The resources of the State, county and local governments are inadequate to meet storm related needs in Morris and Sussex Counties.

Based on the Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment conducted with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, estimates of the eligible damage to the public sector in the requested counties caused by this event total more than $ 7.2 million. A detailed presentation of these estimates is included on the following pages and is broken down by the type of damage. I must emphasis to you that these figures are only preliminary estimates as of 3 PM this date. Federal and State damage assessment teams will continue this process, tomorrow, August 15, 2000. These estimates are expected to rise considerably as additional infrastructure damage is uncovered by cleanup crews working to restore services in the affected areas.

I have determined this incident is of such severity that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary. I am specifically requesting assistance pursuant to the Individual Assistance Program to include the Disaster Housing Program, the Small Business Administration Disaster Loans Program, Crisis Counseling Program, Public Assistance Grant Program and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

I certify that for this major disaster, the State and local governments will assume all applicable non-Federal share of costs required by Public Law 93-288, as amended. Total expenditures for the non-Federal share are expected to exceed $2 million in accordance with Attachment D.

I have designated Captain Kevin P. Hayden of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, as the Governor's Authorized Representative for this request. He will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop the damage assessments and may provide further information or justification on my behalf.

Yours sincerely,

Christine Todd Whitman

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