ALBANY -- President Trump issued a major disaster declaration Wednesday for a mid-March snowstorm that crippled parts of the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.
The declaration was issued for 28 counties hit by "Winter Storm Stella" on March 14-15. The move allows local and state governments, as well as some non-profits, to tap into federal aid and assistance.
State and local governments had more than $31 million in response costs and infrastructure damage from the storm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The 28 counties are Albany, Broome, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Orleans, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Suffolk, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins and Ulster counties.
"Extreme weather is quickly becoming the new normal and all levels of government need to reorient to best help those impacted by increasingly frequent storms," Cuomo said in a statement. "The state is committed to supporting every stage of the recovery process, and this declaration is critical to getting the assistance we need to help these communities move beyond this storm."
In Broome County, officials estimate the county could be eligible for $1.5 million — incurred by all municipalities and school districts for emergency snow removal and other winter storm-related costs. It was unclear Wednesday how long it would take for the county to learn how much will be reimbursed, but officials took the announcement as a good sign.
"The recovery component to any disaster is expensive and time consuming," said Broome County Emergency Services Director Michael Ponticiello. "This (aid) enables all the communities to do that in the most effective manner; it is certainly welcome aid.
Three deaths were attributed to the storm that caused 17,000 power outages and dumped a record 36 inches of snow in Broome County.
The state deployed 1,400 members of the New York National Guard to assist in the response to the storm, which included roof collapses and a ice jam along the Salmon River in the North Country.
Snow fall rates were as much as six inches an hour in some parts of upstate.
The storm was originally set to hit the New York City area, leading Cuomo to shut down parts of the transit system.
But the storm quickly shifted to parts of upstate, with Cuomo declaring a state of emergency and roads shut in Broome County.
"Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm," the White House said in its declaration.
Sen. Charles Schumer praised the federal action.
“Communities across upstate New York were devastated by this historic snowstorm, and these crucial funds are critical to their recovery,” Schumer said in a statement.
“I am pleased FEMA heeded my calls by agreeing to help affected communities to get back on their feet after this devastating winter storm.”