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Public Statements

Manchin Urges Additional Assistance for Sandy Recovery

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

In testimony submitted to the Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) asked for additional assistance from FEMA to help West Virginians recover from Superstorm Sandy.

"As we all know, Superstorm Sandy caused severe damage in many states on the eastern seaboard. This storm uniquely affected West Virginia with not only heavy winds and rains, but also snow accumulation of 50 inches in the mountains of Northern and Western parts of West Virginia," Senator Manchin said in the statement. "Emergency responders and our National Guard were pushed to the limit by power outages that affected nearly a million of our residents, by the need to vigorously monitor water levels of many affected rivers, and by having to quickly establish emergency shelters all across the state.

"But this is only part of the story of Superstorm Sandy and West Virginia. Our responders also were overwhelmed by dozens of roads that required debris removal, the need for reconnaissance flights to identify downed power lines and substations damaged by fallen trees, and by the urgent requirement to reach individuals across the state who were isolated and in need of such basics as food, water, medicines and shelter.

"Moving forward, FEMA has told us that debris removal remains the biggest issue for our recovery. This storm has left more debris in its wake than any other storm on record, totaling nearly one million cubic yards. Needless to say, with that kind of impact the work to recover is ongoing."

Senator Manchin's full statement:

Chairman Landrieu, Ranking Member Coats:

On behalf of all West Virginians, and especially those affected by Superstorm Sandy, thank you for your leadership on the important topic of our federal government's response to natural disasters. I also want to thank you for holding today's hearing so we can discuss ongoing efforts to help states and individuals recover from this calamitous storm.

As we all know, Superstorm Sandy caused severe damage in many states on the eastern seaboard. This storm uniquely affected West Virginia with not only heavy winds and rains, but also snow accumulation of 50 inches in the mountains of Northern and Western parts of West Virginia. Emergency responders and our National Guard were pushed to the limit by power outages that affected nearly a million of our residents, by the need to vigorously monitor water levels of many affected rivers, and by having to quickly establish emergency shelters all across the state.

But this is only part of the story of Superstorm Sandy and West Virginia. Our responders also were overwhelmed by dozens of roads that required debris removal, the need for reconnaissance flights to identify downed power lines and substations damaged by fallen trees, and by the urgent requirement to reach individuals across the state who were isolated and in need of such basics as food, water, medicines and shelter.

The state of West Virginia has had its fair share of disasters in 2012. In this year alone, the State has received four major disaster declarations and two emergency declarations from FEMA.

In March of this year, our state endured seldom seen flooding, landslides and even a tornado, which is an extremely rare event for West Virginians. Counties in southern West Virginia bore the brunt of these storms that flooded homes and destroyed buildings, roads, and public and private bridges across the region. Many residents of the counties affected by these storms are low-income and elderly, and do not have personal insurance plans on which to rely.

The summer derecho brought unseen destruction to our state. Within hours the storm had caused severe damage in all fifty-five counties. Nearly 700,000 residents were without electricity for days in near 100-degree summer heat. Critical services, including911, cell and radio towers and the water systems people depend on were rendered inoperative for days as well.

In each of these situations over the course of 2012, FEMA has been a trusted and valuable partner every step of the way. Under the leadership of the President, FEMA has quickly responded to our needs. I want to publicly thank Secretary Napolitano for visiting our state as we responded to Sandy, and for FEMA Administrator Fugate and his staff for their responsiveness and coordination with my staff and that of Governor Tomblin and leaders of the West Virginia National Guard and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Without these resources and their tireless efforts my state would not have fared as well as we did through a year of numerous and significant natural disasters. West Virginia still grieves the loss of 7 of our citizens to storm-related accidents, but we are convinced that FEMA's assistance prevented the loss of many others.

Moving forward, FEMA has told us that debris removal remains the biggest issue for our recovery. This storm has left more debris in its wake than any other storm on record, totaling nearly one million cubic yards. Needless to say, with that kind of impact the work to recover is ongoing. There is also substantial work on permanent structures that remains. We need FEMA's assistance to repair our roads and bridges, our water control facilities and other public utilities, and we must ensure public buildings are safe for our citizens.

FEMA continues to respond to the concerns of my staff, and my hope is that they will continue to work together, along with state agencies, to ensure improved coordination and collaboration to improve our preparations for the storms that are sure to come. Finally, I would also use this opportunity to again stress that the President's FY 2013 budget should contain necessary funds for all those affected by Superstorm Sandy to rebuild their homes, and to assist businesses and communities get back to normal.

Chairman Landrieu, this concludes my statement. Again, on behalf of all West Virginians affected by Superstorm Sandy and the many other natural disasters in recent years, thank you for holding this important hearing.


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