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Ellsworth providing staging area for FEMA team
This is an aerial view of cattle killed by the Atlas Blizzard in South Dakota on Oct. 10, 2013. Civil Air Patrol photo by David Small.
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Ellsworth providing staging area for FEMA team

Posted 12/18/2013   Updated 12/18/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Alystria Maurer
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

12/18/2013 - ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- In an effort to supplement local recovery efforts in areas affected by severe weather conditions, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency established a Joint Field Office at Ellsworth Dec. 2.

FEMA staff - 75 in all operating out of space in the Air Force Financial Services Center - will be taking applications for public assistance from 14 counties and two tribes in the region that were impacted by winter storm Atlas.

"On November 8, President Barack Obama announced that federal disaster aid had been made available for South Dakota," said Phil Wernisch, FEMA external affairs officer. "This aid would be for recovery efforts for areas affected by the early October severe snowstorm and flooding."

Wernisch explained that programs are designed to help South Dakota residents in many different ways ranging from reimbursing costs associated with debris removal and powerline replacements to providing financial assistance to individuals who were unemployed due to the disaster.

"So far, 98 applicants, including state agencies, tribal and local governments and some private non-profit organizations have submitted requests for public assistance for the state of South Dakota," said Wernisch. "During the preliminary damage assessment, FEMA and the state made a quick snapshot of the damages, and the State of South Dakota estimated approximately $38 million in damage of which FEMA will pay up to 75 percent of eligible costs and the state an additional 10 percent."

For many on the FEMA team it is their first time at Ellsworth. But for one, it's a chance to return to their former stomping ground.

Jeff Volkman, FEMA planning section chief for the contingent staging out of Ellsworth, was previously a B-1 bomber weapons systems officer with the 37th Bomb Squadron at the base, he said returning to Ellsworth has brought up fond memories.

"I found a new way to serve after separating from the Air Force," Volkman said. "Being at Ellsworth is very rewarding for me. I get to give back to a community that did a lot for me."
Wernisch said applicants could start receiving their funds as early as January, but assistance can vary case by case.

"We really appreciate that Ellsworth provided a facility for us," said Wernisch. "It made it possible for our team set up equipment and focus on the job at hand as quickly as possible."

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