09/20/2011 03:58 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2011

Virginia Earthquake: Gov. Bob McDonnell Requests Federal Disaster Declaration

WASHINGTON -- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has formally requested a federal disaster declaration for Louisa County, the epicenter of the Aug. 23 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt across the region. According to a statement released by the governor's office on Tuesday afternoon:

The governor requested federal aid through [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]'s Individual Assistance program. If approved, the Individual Assistance program makes funding available for homeowners and renters in the form of grants and low-interest loans as well as disaster housing assistance. The governor also requested disaster unemployment assistance, legal services and crisis counseling for Louisa County. Other localities could be added on as new or further damage is identified.

Virginia began damage assessments immediately after the earthquake, but unlike other natural disasters where damage is readily apparent, it became clear that structural engineers with earthquake experience were needed to properly identify and catalog the damage. FEMA damage evaluators from the west coast were brought in to assist. Much of the quake damage was not visible from the outside of buildings, and evaluating the damage is more complex and time consuming than wind and flood damage.

The governor also requested Hazard Mitigation Assistance for the state which allows local jurisdictions and state agencies "take actions to reduce the impact of future disasters, such as modifying or removing structures from a hazard area and conducting public education campaigns. Virginia is currently evaluating damage to public infrastructure to determine if it can qualify for FEMA's Public Assistance program."