Snyder declares 'state of disaster' for Osceola

Watkins estimates more than $100,000 in damages

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Gov. Rick Snyder has declared a “state of disaster” for Osceola County as a result of the vast damage from recent severe weather.

On April 17, Snyder issued the declaration for both Osceola and Newaygo counties. The declaration enables the state of Michigan to make available all the state resources to work alongside local recovery efforts within the counties.

“This allows state resources to augment our own,” said Osceola County Emergency Management Director Mark Watkins. “We’ve been able to get state resources and receive assistance from Department of Natural Resources officers and Michigan State Police troopers.”

On Monday, three inspectors from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs visited Osceola County to assist with local building, electrical and mechanical inspections to work on restoring electricity to homes and businesses.

Damage costs in Osceola County are expected to reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars following the massive storm that ripped through the county during the weekend of April 12.

Watkins said more than 200 structures have been impacted by the weather, and 75 propane tanks have been retrieved from the river.

The declaration of a state of disaster is another step toward potentially receiving funds to repair damage.

“They will assess our situation, as well as Newaygo County’s, and if it warrants it, the governor will request a Presidential Declaration, which opens it up to programs to help with the costs,” Watkins said.

With the large amounts of damage, the recovery process will take several weeks.

“Although the water is receding, the recovery process will be ongoing,” Watkins added. “Many homes had lots of damage. The response phase is winding down, but the recovery could be the worst part.”

A damage cost estimate will not be available for several days, but he estimates the damage will total more than $100,000, which is just "the tip of the iceberg."

Watkins said residents with access to a computer can check for updates on the Osceola County Emergency Management Facebook page or on nixle.com.

Aid from Lansing was requested by Osceola County Commission Chair Larry Emig following his declaration of a state of emergency for the county.

The request was issued “due to a prolonged series of extreme winter conditions, severe storms and flooding which has caused widespread and severe damage to property and has caused extraordinary threat of injury and loss of life,” according to the formal document.

In the declaration, Emig requests Gov. Rick Snyder declare a state of emergency after the county provides an assessment of damage. If conditions warrant, he asks Snyder to petition to President Barack Obama to do the same.

“The river flooded more than 15 feet,” Emig said. “It’s all because of the amount of snowfall we had this winter, and then all of the rain we got on the weekend (of April 12). The combination of the two was the perfect storm, so to speak.”

He said destruction took place throughout Osceola County, with bridges damaged, roads washed away and other hazards.

Emig also aims to put other resources to work helping local response efforts from the state, including:

  • MSP Aviation helicopter to support damage assessment and high level documentation of water impact;
  • Traffic-control resources including traffic signs, barricades, cones, etc. to support blocking of main roads, routes and emergency detours;
  • Technical engineering to assess water impact on local roads and bridges;
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers support in high water marking for historical and mitigation documentation, sandbags to replace stocks used to protect critical infrastructure and ensure emergency floodfighting contingency and floodfight training to personnel;
  • Provision of bulk public information publications from FEMA, American Red Cross, etc. aimed at response and recovery;
  • Financial assistance to support extraordinary emergency cost of snow and debris removal, emergency protective actions, repair of roads and evacuations reflective of FEMA public-assistance programs;
  • Financial and technical assistance to support mitigation actions in relation to current and future flooding;
  • Financial assistance to homeowners for uninsured costs and support reflective of FEMA individual assistance; and
  • Supportive coordination with MIVOAD agencies to help with clean up and recovery efforts.

Emig said a declaration for the state or nation could be given this week.

The American Red Cross has been sheltering families over the last 10 days at the Evart Middle School, and Watkins said a service center will be open at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Evart from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23, and on Friday, April 25, for residents looking to talk to agencies providing emergency services.

Emily Grove-Davis also contributed to this article