Federal disaster aid coming to 15 counties

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — President Bush has ordered federal disaster aid to Snohomish County and 14 other counties hit by heavy flooding in October.

The Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Sauk rivers spilled over their banks in some of the most severe flooding in October on record. The waters cut through yards, farmland and roads, and washed away homes and cars.

The flooding caused more than $10 million in damages in Snohomish County, said Paul Hess with the county Department of Emergency Management.

Bush ordered federal funding Friday after declaring the 15 counties in a state of disaster.

Assistance to residents and business owners could be available through rental payments for temporary housing, grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items, and grants to replace personal property and other needs not covered by insurance.

Unemployment payments could be available for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the flooding, and residents, business owners and farmers may apply for low-interest loans.

Funding also may be available to the state for projects that reduce future disaster risks.

"We look forward to working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get this assistance processed as soon as possible and into the hands of those who need it most," said Gov. Gary Locke, who asked for the disaster assistance Oct. 30.

When he announced the disaster request, Locke estimated that the floods caused $15 million in damage to homes and businesses and another $15 million to state highways. He predicted those estimates could soar four- or fivefold when final assessments are tallied.

"The disaster declaration allows us to move quickly on a federal level to help those affected," said Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., whose district includes some of the most hard-hit lowlands. "When the water receded, hundreds of families and business owners found themselves with destroyed or damaged homes and businesses, and farmers lost thousands of acres."

Residents and business owners in the designated counties can begin applying for disaster relief by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 800-621-3362. The toll-free line will be available starting at 8 a.m. today. The line will be open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

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