Teton County ratifies winter storm declaration; adds ‘disaster’ resolution for purpose of potential state, federal assistance.
The Teton County Board of County Commissioners ratified a resolution declaring a temporary state of emergency through Monday, Feb. 13, for winter storm impacts including the ongoing power outage at Teton Village and its neighboring subdivisions. The commissioners also approved a second resolution, a “Disaster Declaration of Winter Storm” in Teton County to open the door for state and federal financial assistance.
Power is anticipated to be restored to Teton Village and the neighboring customers served by the Crystal Springs electrical substation between this weekend and Tuesday, according to Lower Valley Energy’s conservative estimate, barring any unforeseen circumstances. However, the costs to repair to the 17 downed power lines and other winter storm impacts in recent days may qualify for state and federal aid.
As an initial step toward qualifying for federal aid, a disaster declaration must adhere to specific standards and language, including making the declaration county-wide. Before approving the resolution unanimously, Teton County commissioners discussed concerns regarding the use of the term “disaster,” which they worried could lead to greater economic impacts in tourism. However, they concluded that it was necessary to use the correct terminology to unlock the potential for state and federal funding. If specific requirements are met, financial reimbursement could potentially be available to Lower Valley Energy, qualifying government agencies and qualifying nonprofits.
“This kind of ‘disaster’ doesn’t shut down our community,” said Teton County Emergency Management Coordinator Rich Ochs. “But a disaster declaration lends credence and recognition of how critical an event can be. It can ensure further assistance requests or financial reimbursement be dealt with in a timely manner.”
Commissioners also discussed the nature of a disaster declaration in that its wording must include the entirety of Teton County and how the resolution might be perceived by visitors. Kim Johnson, governmental liaison for the State of Wyoming’s Office of Homeland Security, explained that throughout the country, when a county disaster declaration is made, the emergency situation is typically concentrated in a small area but the entire county is involved in response and recovery efforts.
“This is an extraordinary situation,” Board of Commissioners Chair Mark Newcomb said. “I see a basis for this both from a local level and from the standpoint of our utility, Lower Valley Energy. I also see the importance of this from a federal standpoint, which has to maintain a very clear and careful process so counties throughout the nation who do experience extraordinary events have a means to recoup their financial losses.”
The full disaster declaration can be downloaded from Teton County’s website TetonWyo.org at the following link: http://www.tetonwyo.org/ph/docs/DisasterResolutionWinterStorm2017.pdf.
For background information on the prior state of emergency resolution, view the news release from Wednesday, Feb. 9, also available at TetonWyo.org or directly here: http://www.tetonwyo.org/em/docs/Teton%20County%20EM%202-9-2017-.pdf
The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board are using their networks to let the world know that the airport is fully operational – barring normal weather impacts – and that Jackson and Teton County are open for business.
If travelers planning to come to the area have questions, they may call the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce at (307) 733-3316, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or check their website after hours at www.JacksonHoleChamber.com. The Chamber of Commerce has been fielding calls to assist with alternative lodging and activity accommodations for those with reservations at Teton Village. The Travel and Tourism Board’s www.VisitJacksonHole.com blog is being updated multiple times a day, and has additional valuable information for travelers.
Please note that there is not an official evacuation order in place for Teton Village or neighboring subdivisions without power. However, many hotels closed due to the power outage, and many residents have chosen to find other accommodations due to lack of power and phone service.
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski area expects to be able to reopen on Monday. The resort is posting frequent updates on their website at www.JacksonHole.com and their Facebook page.