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Gov requests disaster assistance for Louisa earthquake

Gov. Bob McDonnell has asked the federal government for disaster assistance for Louisa County residents impacted by last month’s earthquake.

McDonnell made the request through the Federal Emergency Management agency’s Individual Assistance program. If approved, homeowners and renters can qualify for grants, low-interest loans and disaster housing assistance. McDonnell also requested disaster employment assistance, legal services and crisis counseling.

In a news release, McDonnell said it took some time to make the request because of the nature of the damage. It often wasn’t visible from the outside of buildings, and is more complex to evaluate than wind or flood damage. FEMA experts from the West Coast, with earthquake experience, were brought in to help evaluate the damages.

“The historic earthquake – felt by millions along the east coast – was centered in Louisa County, and its impact on our citizens cannot be measured in just dollars and cents,” McDonnell said.  “Family life in so many communities has been disrupted, with homes destroyed and children unable to attend their schools because of the destruction. Even today the full extent of the impact is unknown as new damage continues to be discovered and additional aftershocks make existing damage worse.” 

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake, centered around Mineral in Louisa County, damaging numerous structures and forcing the county to close two schools for the year. According to a release from Louisa County, there have been more than 1,100 reports of damage caused by the earthquake or its 30-plus aftershocks. So far, 680 of those damaged structures have been assessed, and the current damage assessment for residential properties stands at $14.7 million. Most of those residents did not have earthquake insurance.

“The quake rendered many homes in the county structurally unsound and also damaged chimneys and other sources of heat,” said Willie Gentry, chairman of the county board of supervisors, in a statement. “With colder weather approaching, the governor’s request for a disaster declaration positions the county to receive critical aid at a time when our citizens need it most.”

Free Lance-Star reporter Portsia Smith contributed to this report.