January 22, 2009

Snow emergency declared

Snow emergency declared
BHG News Service
Last week, after dealing with an estimated 80 inches of snow in some areas of the county, the McLean County Board of Commissioners became one of the five counties and one city to officially declare a state of snow emergency.
“Declaring a snow emergency is typically done when you have exhausted most, if not all of your resources, to combat snow removal,” McLean County Emergency Coordinator Todd Schreiner said.
Other counties that have declared the snow emergency include McHenry, Pierce, Sheridan, Mercer and the city of Lincoln (east of Bismarck).
“The declaration itself is nothing,” Schreiner said, “It can only open up operation plans and emergency funds if any are available.”
The declaration was sent to the state level to see if there was any assistance and service that could be given to the counties in need. The assistance that is given is based upon the amount of snow and damage that has been done in the particular area.
To be considered a disaster area, there must be $1 million worth of damage. “Snow doesn’t cause $1 million of damage, unless it takes down power lines and infrastructure,” Schreiner said.
Where the cost is affected with snow is the removal.
“The snow removal puts stress on county and highway departments trying to keep roads open and keep people safe,” Schreiner said.
The massive amount of overtime from employees is being taken from the county’s general fund, because this amount of snow removal and man-hours was not included in the appropriated budget, as none of this could have been foreseen, said Schreiner. Every time that equipment breaks down, or machinery is damaged, that adds to the increasing cost.
At this point, the county’s snow emergency will not go any further until the state pronounces the declaration. Until that happens, the county will not receive any funding or state and federal assistance.
“If the state does declare it, then they come back and look at the situation, and reimburse for the excess hours that the county and highway departments have put in to open the roads,” Schreiner said. “They (state) also help with damages that might have been done to equipment or other infrastructure.”

The Weather Network