The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported this week that unprecedented damage from hurricanes led a barrage of natural disasters that resulted in 68 major disaster declarations issued by President Bush in 2004, the most for a single year in nearly a decade.
According to FEMA data, a record-setting 27 of the total major disasters were declared for hurricane-related damage in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, surpassing the previous high of 19 declarations set in 1999. FEMA figures also showed that $4.85 billion of the more than $5.53 billion expended for disaster aid in 2004 was provided for hurricane relief, which topped the previous record of $2.25 billion that has been obligated for hurricane damage in 1998.
In addition to Florida, which was hit by four hurricanes, other states declared for hurricane aid included Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. At the close of the year, recovery efforts were continuing in Florida, where over one million individuals and families have registered for assistance, and many of the other states impacted by hurricanes.
Among other major events that FEMA responded to in 2004 were:
* Winter Weather – The January ice storm that paralyzed parts of South Carolina, a series of early winter storms that struck Oregon, and record snowstorms in the Northeast that led to emergency assistance declarations for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York.
* Floods – Seasonal storms that flooded Ohio in January; North Dakota in March; Arkansas, Massachusetts and New Mexico in April; Louisiana, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin in May; Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey and West Virginia in July; Pennsylvania and Vermont in August; Minnesota in September; and Alaska in October.
* Tornadoes – Spring and summer tornadoes that hit Illinois in April; Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Virginia in May; and Kansas in August.
* Earthquakes – The San Simeon earthquake in California that was declared for federal disaster aid in early January.
* Pacific Storms – Tropical Cyclone Heta that struck American Samoa in January, Typhoon Sudal that hit Micronesia in April, and Typhoons Tinting and Chaba that battered the Northern Mariana Islands in June and August, respectively.
* Wildfires – Wildfire outbreaks in Alaska, Hawaii and eight western states that resulted in the agency authorizing 43 fire management assistance grants.
Statistically, Florida and South Carolina led the nation in the need for federal aid, with each requiring four major disaster declarations, followed by three each for New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and two each for Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and North Carolina.
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