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Storm damage 2010: States ring up the cost

Federal help for winter storm damage is on the way to 35 areas in the US. Recovery hits state and local budgets hard.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / March 29, 2010

Workers shovel a path to the door of a home in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., north of Los Angeles, after a February mudslide. The state is one of many struggling with storm damage.

Bret Hartman/AP

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Spring may be here, but winter left behind a hefty bill in many states, communities, and businesses.

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Iowa, which had a record snowfall this winter, is spending an extra $12 million to fill potholes and repair roads.

• Buffeted by fierce coastal storms, the beach community of Avalon, N.J., is forking out an extra $4.2 million for emergency beach replenishment. Tens of thousands of cubic feet of sand got sucked into the stormy Atlantic.

• Flooding in the upper Midwest prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to declare in mid-March an emergency in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

IN PICTURES: Springtime flooding in the US

To be sure, every spring requires repaving, cleanup from storm damage, and preparation for the summer. Still, with March coming to a close, the storms have hardly let up: Another coastal storm on Monday and Tuesday is expected to bring torrential rain – with the threat of flooding – to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The Pacific Northwest is also bracing for storms that could mean spring flooding, according to AccuWeather.com.

In many cases, the storms of the just-concluded winter entered another category. Six nor’easters barreled up the coast. The US capital shoveled 70 inches of snow, 50 of it in two weeks. California was hammered by a series of storms in January that left residents digging out from mudslides and floods. Six Golden State counties were declared eligible for federal emergency funds.

“It was a memorable winter because it affected so many people and so much of the economy,” says Scott Bernhardt, chief operating officer and a meteorologist at Planalytics, a weather intelligence service for business in Berwyn, Pa. “Last year we had a lot of snow, but it fell in places like the Dakotas and Montana. This year, it fell on the populated areas.”

This winter, 35 places in the United States have so far received federal disaster or emergency designation. The previous winter, there were 29 designations, and FEMA approved or promised to pay $891 million for relief.

In a new policy this past November, FEMA included major winter-storm sites as eligible for an emergency or major disaster declaration. Washington felt the effects of a disastrous snowstorm firsthand: In February, federal agencies in Washington shut down for 4-1/2 days at a cost of about $100 million per day in lost productivity.

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