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Federal disaster aid proposal could help more California cities

May 30, 2012 | 11:17 am

Click for more photos from the wind storm

When a fierce wind storm ripped through Pasadena, knocking out power and toppling hundreds of trees late last year, the city applied for federal disaster aid to help cover $14.5 million in clean-up costs.

“The fiscal impact to us was catastrophic,” said Lisa Derderian, emergency management coordinator for Pasadena. Much of the city cost was in overtime for public works employees who had to clean up 50,000 tons of fallen limbs and tree debris and work to restore power.

Fourteen nearby cities spent another $20 million after the storm. But they received nothing because their damages fell short of the threshold set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at about $50 million.

PHOTOS: Santa Ana winds wreak havoc across Southern California

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) introduced legislation Wednesday that would modify FEMA’s qualifying formulas to make it easier for small- and medium-sized cities like Pasadena to receive disaster aid.

“We need to reform the process so that small- and medium-sized cities in more populous states like California are not penalized when it comes to disaster aid,” Schiff said in a statement. “While it will not help the Foothills recoup money from the last storm, it will hopefully prevent that from happening to these and other communities in the future."

FEMA evaluates damages on a per capita basis, so the threshold is higher for communities in heavily populated states and counties. Schiff’s proposal would direct FEMA to consider other factors in those places. His staff said about 40 counties nationwide would be affected by the changes, including seven in California.


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--Bettina Boxall

Photo: Palm fronds brought down by heavy winds last year are gathered on the sidewalk along East Mountain Street in Pasadena. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times