Governor Laura Kelly sent a request to President Joe Biden through the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking for a major presidential declaration for the Public Assistance Program because of damage resulting from severe storms with extreme high winds on Dec. 15, 2021.
In the request, Kelly said the storm system generated wind gusts ranging from 60 to 100 mph, causing widespread damage. The high winds and dry conditions also led to wildfires that burned more than 160,000 acres and resulted in the deaths of two people. Kelly’s letter said the weather event was of an extremely rare nature, citing information from the Topeka office of the National Weather Service that registered 90 mph winds at 4,000 feet, which was stronger that any winds recorded at that level since 1955.
Joint preliminary damaged estimates placed the total damages for all involved counties in excess of $15 million. Kelly’s request is for federal funding to help restore damaged public utilities, roads and bridges.
Counties that are included in the initial request are: Barton, Brown, Clay, Cloud, Doniphan, Edwards, Ellis, Ellsworth, Ford, Geary, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jewell, Kearny, Lane, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, Meade, Mitchell, Morris, Morton, Nemaha, Ness, Osborne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Republic, Rice, Riley, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Saline, Scott, Sheridan, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Trego, Wabaunsee, Wallace, Washington, Wichita and Wyandotte.
If declared by the president, additional counties may be added if the damages sustained can meet or exceed the county’s public assistance threshold.
“Severe storm damages can be bad enough,” said Kelly, “but to add to that the losses caused by wildfires creates a heavy financial burden on our Kansas counties. I am requesting this disaster declaration to help our counties repair the damages caused by these storms and wildfires and get things back to normal for our citizens.”