Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency met with Ottawa County commissioners Monday to gather preliminary estimates of damage caused by a series of winter storms that hit Jan. 12.
Central district commissioner Kenneth Palmer shook his head as he tried to guess what the storm's financial impact will be. He told the federal team of interviewers that it will take two months to clear away the debris and that there are still roads in his district that have not been touched.
Palmer's district was the hardest hit in Ottawa County when three winter storms blanketed northeast Oklahoma in ice. The weight of the storm forced trees and power lines to the ground and left thousands without power and water for several days.
“His district is in bad shape,” said Russel Earls, chairman of the county commission. “I have guys there today to help him clear away debris.”
The FEMA representatives told county officials that Monday's visit was very preliminary and they expect that the estimates will change as recovery continues.
Commissioners have until mid-June to have solid numbers, according to the FEMA officials. In the meantime, the federal employees will take current estimates, inspect the county roads and “do the best they can” to determine a total cost to reimburse Ottawa County.
Monday's preliminary inquiry is part of a 23-county review of areas that received a federal disaster declaration and are eligible for the reimbursement of money used to battle and recover from the record-breaking ice storm.
Following is how Ottawa County has estimated damage:
District 1 - Most of the debris has been removed. It took an estimated 320 man hours to clear the district's 260 miles of roadways, according to commissioner John Clarke. He estimated the cost at about $30,000 as crews moved about 120 cubic yards of debris per mile of road. Not all of the northern district's roads were blocked by debris. Clarke said that, in terms of debris, his district received the least amount of damage.
District 2 - Palmer said it will take several weeks to clear the debris from his 260 miles of road. He did not offer a cost estimate, but said that it is taking as much as six dump trucks to clear a mile of road in his district.
District 3 - Commissioner Earls said that about 50 miles in his district had been cleared of debris and that most of the debris was now gone. The crews moved about 120 cubic feet of debris per mile and the cost, according to Earls, was similar to that in District 1.
Sand and salt removal:
The three districts combined have about 25 miles of asphalt roads that will need to be removed of excess sand, according to commissioners. An estimated 70-percent of the 948 miles of county roads are gravel.
District 1 - Clarke said his crews are still assessing damages, but guessed that 60 to 70 miles of roads are damaged. Most are rutting and sinking due to the ice. He guessed that it will take approximately $50,000 to rebuild the dirt and gravel roads. The district's asphalt roads are crumbling and pocked with pot holes, according to Clarke. The commissioner said it could take $30,000 to $40,000 per mile to repair the black-topped roads.
District 2 - Palmer said that approximately 100 miles of roads in his district were damaged. Of that, about 15 miles are asphalt.
District 3 - Earls said his estimates mirrored those of District 1 since the two districts received about equal damage.
District 1 - Clarke lost a salt spreader that he said “disintegrated” during the storm. The spreader sits in the bed of a 10-wheel dump truck and is estimated at $7,300.
District 2 - Palmer estimated more than $1,400 in equipment damage. The commissioner said a windshield was broken on a motor grader and a windshield wiper was damaged on a front-end loader. A spreader was also damaged when the dump truck carrying it slid into an embankment and crushed the equipment. Also, the drag chain on a spreader pulled apart.
District 3 - Earls said his district suffered about $2,500 in equipment damage when a hitch was pulled off of a county truck. A grader also overturned, but damage estimates were not assessed yet on that piece of equipment.
No buildings in any of the three districts were damaged.