APNewsBreak: Massachusetts seeks disaster aid for snow

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts will seek a federal disaster declaration for the record-setting snowstorms that wreaked havoc on the state and piled up what state officials estimate to be $400 million in snow removal costs and other damage, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration said Tuesday.

Baker planned to send a letter to President Barack Obama by the end of the week asking for the disaster declaration for 10 counties, an area encompassing about 250 cities and towns, a spokesman told The Associated Press. The letter would be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the final decision on the request to be made by the president.

In what the administration acknowledges is an unusual request, the state is asking the federal government to treat the several weeks of storms that began in late January as a single disaster, compounded by frigid temperatures that prevented any immediate melting.

As of March 15, Boston had received 108.6 inches of snow, topping a seasonal record of 107.9 inches that was set in 1995-96. Nearly 65 inches fell in February alone, shattering the previous one-month record of 43.3 inches in January 2005.

Tim Buckley, Baker's communications director, said that based on information gathered by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the storm resulted in an estimated $350 million in unanticipated snow removal expenses and caused $50 million in other damage.

If the disaster declaration is approved, the state would hope to get 75 percent reimbursement, though there is no guarantee the federal government would agree to the full amount the state will seek.

"The unprecedented monthlong weather pattern that brought record snow, crippling vital systems across the Commonwealth requires an unprecedented response and the administration is hopeful that together with the congressional delegation, Massachusetts will receive the appropriate support from Washington," Buckley said in a statement.

"Roughly 250 cities and towns' budgets were busted by the 30 day long weather incident and federal assistance will go a long way to recovering from the record-setting severe weather," he added.

The snow clogged streets, forcing many communities to cancel schools for days at a time. Baker activated the National Guard and appealed for equipment and personnel from other states to help remove the snow.

Roofs collapsed throughout the region under the weight of the snow. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Boston area's transit system, experienced massive delays and at times was forced to shut down completely.

Baker, a Republican, worked closely with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other members of the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation in formulating the request, Buckley said.

Massachusetts' four westernmost counties, Hampshire, Hamden, Berkshire and Franklin counties, were less severely affected by the storms and would not be covered by the governor's disaster request.