December 06, 2007

Smith, Wyden Urge Immediate Disaster Relief

Call on the President, Department of Homeland Security for assistance

Washington, DC - Today, Oregon Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden took to the Senate floor to call for immediate federal assistance in the aftermath of storms and flooding that ravaged Oregon's north coast earlier this week. In the wake of the storm, hundreds of Oregonians were in shelters, Interstate Five was shutdown and emergency communication lines failed.

"Mother nature struck the North Coast with an unrelenting fury of rain and wind this week. Homes are destroyed, roads are blocked and schools are closed," Smith said. "We must bring all the resources of the federal government to restore hope and vitality. This declaration is critical to the recovery, safety and welfare of thousands of Oregonians."

"For three days this week the residents of our state were slammed by storms that have left thousands of them without homes, belongings or basic services," said Wyden. "State resources are being deployed as friends, neighbors and relatives of those hit the hardest courageously step forward to lend a helping hand. Now it is time for the federal government to follow suit with the resources necessary to get Oregonians back on their feet."

In a letter to President Bush, Senators Smith and Wyden urged the swift declaration of a major disaster for the State of Oregon. The Senators requested extensive and rapid deployment of federal resources. Federal assistance is necessary to reinforce the local recovery already underway. Additionally, Senators Smith and Wyden spoke with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff today to reinforce the need for immediate federal help.

Full text of the letter is available below.

Dear Mr. President:

For thirty-six hours, hurricane-force winds and torrential rain battered the Pacific Northwest. Flooding rivers forced Oregonians from their homes and stranded thousands on or near Oregon's north coast. On December 3, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski declared a state of emergency in response to the disaster, and as of Tuesday, nearly 700 Oregonians were taking refuge in shelters run by the American Red Cross, which has since designated the affected area a Disaster Relief operation.

We are writing to ask that you expeditiously approve Governor Kulongoski's request, in a letter dated December 5, 2007, that you declare a major disaster for the State of Oregon as a result of the severe flooding and storm damage that began earlier this week. We further ask for your commitment to ensuring that Federal resources are deployed as quickly and efficiently as possible to assist in the recovery effort. This disaster is not merely a local one. Transportation on the main arteries connecting Oregon and Washington has been suspended due to flooding. This alone will have a significant economic impact on the two states. Reports indicate that in the Northwest five deaths and several injuries have resulted from the storms.

State and local governments are working to provide relief to affected communities, and there are numerous examples of Oregonians helping Oregonians to recover from the storm and rebuild their shattered lives. The American Red Cross' Oregon Trail Chapter has opened five Evacuation Centers in five counties in the area. Three of the evacuation centers were kept open overnight as Red Cross Shelters where people were housed and fed overnight. While the local response has been tremendous, Oregon cannot do it on its own. We look forward to you response.


Ron Wyden
United States Senate

Gordon H. Smith
United States Senate