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Gov. Inslee asks FEMA for Major Disaster Declaration for December storms

CAMP MURRAY, WA — Gov. Jay Inslee requested federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday to help local and state response and recovery efforts related to the December winter storm, including the tornado that unexpectedly struck Port Orchard.

In a letter to the President, the governor asked for a Major Disaster Declaration and federal help for impacted local jurisdictions, state agencies and tribes.

The duration of the incident period is significant, as the severe storm system relentlessly impacted Western Washington counties for more than a two-week period. The storm system created significant and damaging impacts to state, tribal and local infrastructure, homes, and businesses.

“Many counties are still recovering from the wind storm that caused massive damage over the holidays,” Inslee said. “Federal assistance will help enormously in getting our friends, neighbors and communities on the road to recovery.”

This severe storm system between Dec. 10 and Dec. 25, 2018 resulted in nearly $18 million in damage caused by major flooding, landslides, mudslides, widespread service area-wide power outages to more than 300,000 customers, home and business evacuations, and extensive damage to homes, businesses, electrical systems and infrastructure. There was sustained wind speeds of 30-40 mph with gusts up to 100 mph in locations. The cumulative impacts of this storm system had a profound impact on the state's public utilities, roads, parks, and other critical infrastructure. The American Red Cross set up and staffed multiple shelters across the state throughout the incident period.

The letter asks for the Public Assistance Program to be implemented in Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom counties. Public Assistance will defray 75 percent of the eligible costs of the emergency response, debris removal and permanent repairs to fix roads, bridges, public utilities and other public infrastructure. 

In addition, the letter requests local governments statewide impacted by the disaster qualify for funding under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. This FEMA grant program provides up to 75 percent federal funding for community planning and projects designed to limit or prevent future disaster damage.  

Among areas highlighted in the letter:

  • A tornado caused $1.81 million in collective damage in Port Orchard. A federal survey showed 12 homes and 16 businesses sustained major damage and 40 homes and three businesses sustained minor damage. The severe storm system and the tornado kept Kitsap County Public Works crews working around the clock to clear debris from roadways, replace damaged or destroyed road signs and restore power. The U.S. Small Business Administration recently offered disaster assistance to businesses and residents impacted by the tornado.
  • The Quileute Tribe's Oceanside Resort in La Push was flooded by 2 feet of water;
  • Sustained winds coupled with damaging gusts toppled trees onto homes and ripped apart portions of a historic Clock Tower Building in Bellingham;
  • A 700-foot section adjacent to a critical roadway in Blaine received substantial erosion;
  • Six boat houses in Marysville located in a marina suffered extensive damage due to tidal storm surge;
  • The storm event also damaged the state Department of Natural Resources Webster Nursery building and multiple systems and equipment including a greenhouse generator and greenhouse freezer monitoring systems. These damaged facilities support the seed processing and seedling growing of millions of DNR-managed and public citizens’ lands.

Media seeking more information can contact Karina Shagren at or (253) 512-8222