It was one year ago today that a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook Virginia. It was one of the most destructive quakes in Virginia’s history and the largest on the east coast since 1944. Thousands of homes as well as businesses, schools and places of worship were damaged.
“For many, the earthquake was nothing more than a brief scare and something to wonder about afterwards. That was not the case, however, for a number of Virginians whose lives were significantly changed that day. Thousands of buildings were damaged and several were destroyed. … Donations and volunteers flooded to Louisa County, the epicenter of the earthquake, but the damage was not easily repaired, and rebuilding will continue for years to come,” said Governor Bob McDonnell.
On Sep. 20, 2011, after bringing in earthquake damage specialists from the west coast to help determine the extent of damage, Virginia requested federal disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The request was denied Oct. 7. McDonnell declared that the decision was unfair in light of the destruction to homes, other private property, and public buildings. Virginia continued to work with FEMA to identify additional damage and then appealed the decision Oct. 28. FEMA granted disaster assistance Nov. 4.
More than 6,400 homeowners and renters in nine counties and cities received nearly $16.5 million in recovery assistance from FEMA to help with their personal losses due to the earthquake. Governor McDonnell noted, “While precious family items filled with memories can never be replaced, rebuilding of homes is critical to recovery and the ability to heal from a disaster.”
Virginia state agencies and local governments received more than $31 million in FEMA assistance to help repair buildings and infrastructure. Louisa County schools received $28 million for repairs. Nearly all the county schools were damaged by the quake with two, Thomas Jefferson Elementary and Louisa County High School, having to close permanently. The earthquake caused a total of $61 million in damages to Louisa County schools.
“Emergency responders, school officials, state agencies and local leaders did tremendous work in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, and the work associated with recovery efforts continues today. A lot of rebuilding has taken place and much has been accomplished. The citizens have those officials and the many volunteers to thank for this progress,” said Governor McDonnell.
Volunteers in Louisa County assisted with finishing work after contractors made repairs to brick, mortar and foundations of homes. Corporate donors gave carbon monoxide detectors to protect Louisa County residents who depended on fireplaces and chimney for heat during the past winter. And the county established a Long Term Recovery Group to administer donations made to a local recovery fund.
Other volunteer efforts include establishing persons of contact for each affected locality to respond to survivors with unmet needs, an initiative of the Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. In addition, the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund was made available to assist those who suffered earthquake damage in localities that were not eligible for federal disaster assistance.
To continue aiding disaster victims, Governor McDonnell is asking Virginians to donate to the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund. Donations are needed because of the many natural disasters that impacted Virginia that resulted in multiple ongoing recovery efforts, many of which are not eligible for federal or state assistance.
“I ask that citizens and businesses continue to lend a helping hand to those in need by donating what you can to the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund,” said Governor McDonnell. “It truly takes everyone working together to help our families and communities recover from disasters.”
The Virginia Disaster Relief Fund has assisted residents affected by the April 2011 tornadoes, the August 2011 earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee. The fund may help pay for home repairs, rental assistance, transportation and the purchase of household items. It is a fund of “last resort” if other state, federal and private aid is not available to assist disaster victims. To donate, go to http://www.disasterfund.virginia.gov/