WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Wednesday issued a federal disaster declaration for the District of Columbia due to Hurricane Irene. In the declaration, the president "ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by Hurricane Irene during the period of August 26 to September 1, 2011."
Hopefully, D.C. won't need much federal disaster money, since the Federal Emergency Management Agency's budget is something of a disaster itself. (The leftover $40 million the agency found will help get it through the week, at least.)
Luckily the nation's capital escaped major damage from the East Coast storm, which passed largely to the east of the city. There were no deaths, and less than 10 percent of the city lost power during the storm. "I am thankful the District of Columbia was spared the brunt of Hurricane Irene, and that our city agencies and federal and regional partners have worked together according to our disaster-preparedness plans," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said during a post-storm press conference on Aug. 28.
It's too soon to say what the overall insured losses from the storm will be, but damage from Irene in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware has been estimated to be between $200 million and $400 million. Estimates of the size of the total insured losses go as high as $5.5 billion for the East Coast.
Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, told The Huffington Post that this has been a record year for White House disaster declarations. "Nationally we have had a record 84 federal disaster declarations so far (through September 28), breaking the previous annual record total of 81 set just last year," he said in an email. "The number of declarations has been trending sharply upward, particularly over the past 15 years. The average number of declarations between 1953 and 2010 was 34 per year. In 2011 we’re likely to see nearly three times that many."
Hartwig said that the increased number of disaster declarations seems to be a result both of the number of actual disasters to declare this year, and what "appears to be an increased propensity to issue federal disaster declarations."