Damage and mounting costs from this week's ice storm prompted Douglas County and state officials to declare the county a disaster area Thursday in hopes of gaining federal financial help.
County Commission Chairman Jere McElhaney signed the necessary paperwork Thursday afternoon. Later in the day Gov. Bill Graves declared 22 counties, including Douglas County, a state disaster area.
The state declaration makes the county eligible for federal disaster relief, which could produce funds to reimburse governments and individuals for storm damages.
"If we receive the federal declaration, it could help homeowners who have some uninsured losses," said Paula Phillips, director of Douglas County Emergency Management.
Area governments also could be reimbursed for 75 percent of storm costs, including overtime paid to fire, medical, street and cleanup crews.
Phillips said she doesn't know yet how much storm costs will be, but is communicating with officials in all four Douglas County cities about their damages, in addition to county officials for a damage estimate in the unincorporated areas.
"I don't have a clue on the cost estimate, but it is the response efforts and the cleanup efforts that will produce the significant costs," Phillips said. "I don't think we'll have a lot of property damage, but governments are spending a lot on overtime right now."
Third District Congressman Dennis Moore said he'll push for federal aid.
"I would certainly support that, and I'm sure the rest of the Kansas delegation would as well," Moore said. "I haven't been given any damage estimates, but I've been told 400,000 Kansans have been without power and that alone will create tremendous costs and hardships for businesses and individuals."
In addition to Douglas County, area counties in the state declaration include Franklin, Johnson, Wyandotte and Miami counties. Others are Allen, Anderson, Barber, Bourbon, Chautauqua, Coffey, Cowley, Crawford, Elk, Labette, Linn, Montgomery, Neosho, Sumner, Wilson and Woodson counties.
Baldwin mayor Ken Hayes also formally declared a local disaster for his community, after it suffered heavy damage in its electrical system.
A federal declaration would have to be made by President Bush.