Illinois’ last snowstorm still affects FEMA’s budget

On skis, Scott Malinowski of Champaign and Brett Loman, freshman in ACES, trudge through the Quad Tuesday afternoon. Nothing can get better than skiing on the Quad, Malinowski said. Adam Babcock

Beck Diefenbach

On skis, Scott Malinowski of Champaign and Brett Loman, freshman in ACES, trudge through the Quad Tuesday afternoon. “Nothing can get better than skiing on the Quad,” Malinowski said. Adam Babcock

By Jonathan Wroble

Yesterday afternoon, an ambulance responding to a house fire got stuck in the snow on Route 49 and Homer Lake Road in Champaign. Highway services quickly arrived in order to send the ambulance on its way.

This scene is familiar to the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency, which attempts to coordinate the county’s resources in response to disasters.

Rick Atterberry, public information officer for the Emergency Management Agency, had a straightforward message for University students in the wake of the ongoing winter storm: stay put.

“(Students) may not … be in the habit of listening to local media,” he said. “They really should right now.”

Still, authorities maintained that this severe winter storm is not the largest of the last three months.

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According to the Illinois State Climatologist Office, this last storm dropped between six and 18 inches of snow across Illinois from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1. It left around 500,000 homes without power.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is still dealing with costs from that storm during this latest storm. On Feb. 9, the agency approved reimbursement requests for 18 counties in the state of Illinois due to heavy ice accumulation. This adds to the 26 counties approved on Dec. 29 due to snowfall, making for a total of 44.

In response to the November storm, FEMA has given over $3 million to the Illinois Emergency Medical Agency, which accounts for about 70 percent of reimbursement claims.

“What this does is (allow) small communities to use up their whole emergency budget on one snowstorm,” said Gene Romano, public information officer for FEMA.

In order to qualify for federal aid, individual counties had to experience amounts of snowfall that had never been seen before.

“The only criteria (to qualify) is that the National Weather Service certifies that there was a record or near-record snowfall,” said Patti Thompson, communications manager for the Illinois Emergency Medical Agency.

As for the current storm, neither Thompson nor Romano expects similar amounts of financial assistance. The storm has less potential to set snowfall records, and it completely lacks the ice damage seen in November’s storm.

“I don’t know how this will materialize,” Thompson said. “(But) at this point, there have not been any requests for assistance.”