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Eastern Panhandle cities seek disaster declaration

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The city managers of Martinsburg, Charles Town and Ranson have appealed to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to request the federal government declare a disaster because of the weekend snowstorm that dumped 40 inches or more in several tri-county communities.

“… In consultation and in coordination with the city managers of Charles Town and Martinsburg, I have asked Gov. Tomblin, on behalf of the City of Ranson, the municipalities, counties, first responders and all eligible entities affected by this storm to seek a federal disaster declaration for FEMA public financial reimbursement assistance,” Andy Blake, Ranson city manager, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “The City of Ranson has also asked Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support the federal declaration and call the president of the United States.”

If a disaster is declared, local jurisdictions would be able to apply for reimbursement for the costs of responding to the historic storm. Blake estimated his city is spending $1,500 to $2,000 an hour to respond to the storm.

“Our costs are increasing by the hour,” he said. “We’re doing what it takes to keep our residents safe. It’s no problem. This is what government is supposed to do, but these are extraordinary circumstances.”

Blake said there are certain criteria for a snowstorm to be declared a disaster, but he believes this storm meets the criteria.

“Snowstorm declarations rarely happen, but they certainly can and do happen under the right circumstances as they did in 2010,” he said.

Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said responding to this storm will have a significant cost.

“In 2010, we had two events back to back that was maybe as bad as this storm, and we were reimbursed $70,000,” he said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Charles Town City Manager Dave Mills could not be reached for comment.

“State officials continue to assemble the information needed for Gov. Tomblin to request a federal disaster declaration,” Lawrence Messina, assistant secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said Tuesday in an email. “State officials hope to have final snowfall figures from the National Weather Service (Wednesday). Officials continue to track the relevant price tag. This process is expected to take several days.”

– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128, or

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