Monday, March 20, 2023

BISMARCK, N.D. – President Joe Biden has approved Gov. Doug Burgum’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration for a severe winter storm in November that brought record-breaking snowfall to central North Dakota and ice accumulations in the southeast that impacted transportation and severely damaged electrical infrastructure, costing more than $1.7 million. 

The declaration covers seven counties: Dickey, Kidder, Mercer, Nelson, Ransom, Sargent and Wells. A copy of Burgum’s Jan. 10 letter to the president and Federal Emergency Management Agency requesting the disaster declaration can be viewed here.

“This major disaster declaration provides relief to local entities whose budgets, personnel and operations were hit hard by the November storm,” Burgum said. “We appreciate President Biden and FEMA granting our request and making assistance available to our local jurisdictions that endured this record-breaking weather event. We’re especially grateful to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Department of Transportation, Department of Emergency Services, State Radio and all of the state and local agencies and utility companies that kept citizens safe throughout this storm, and to Sens. Hoeven and Cramer and Rep. Armstrong for supporting our request.”

The November 9-11 storm dumped 24 to 30 inches of snow across some counties, with snowfall rates approaching 3 inches per hour in some locations and winds exceeding 40 miles an hour creating blizzard conditions. Zero visibility conditions, combined with layers of ice under the snow and significant drifting, forced the closure of major state highways for nearly five days. Ice accumulations also toppled trees and downed power lines, leaving thousands of residents without power or heat.

The presidential declaration unlocks FEMA public assistance to help cities, counties and townships pay for costs of repairing infrastructure and snow removal. Preliminary assessments indicate costs at just under $1.75 million, including over $125,000 for snow removal.

Burgum noted that the electrical infrastructure damaged during the Nov. 9-11 storm is the same type of infrastructure that was ripped apart during a blizzard and subsequent flooding in April and May of 2022. That disaster, declared less than a year ago, was the fifth-largest in North Dakota history and caused approximately $97 million in damages statewide. Much work remains from that disaster to restore and harden electrical systems, with an estimated 18-24 months of recovery efforts still expected. North Dakota has received five federal disaster declarations over the past three years, three of which were caused by severe storm events.

The federal government also granted the governor’s request for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to be implemented on a statewide basis to help communities pay for projects that increase resiliency and reduce costs in the long term.