SIDNEY, Neb. - Following a weekend of blizzard-like conditions in Cheyenne County which saw all roads in the Nebraska Panhandle closed and about 100-150 of downed power poles, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the declaration of a Disaster Emergency with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The decision came Monday during their bi-monthly meeting at the County Courthouse along with Region 21 Emergency Management Director Ron Leal. 

The State of Emergency declaration comes as crews at Wheat Belt Public Power District, and others from across the state, continue their restoration efforts with hundreds of power lines being destroyed by the weather. According to Leal, each of the poles themselves cost about $1,500 to replace. A disaster declaration must be issued prior to requesting any state or federal assistance. 

NEMA is charged by state statute to reduce the vulnerabilities of the people and communities of Nebraska from the damage, injury and loss of life and property resulting from natural, technological or man-made disasters and emergencies. As the State of Emergency declaration reads, a County has to show they have suffered from an incident which has caused severe damage to public or private property, disruption of utility service, or endangerment of health and safety of the citizens in the County. 

In signing the Disaster Declaration, Cheyenne County is now authorized to use emergency funds from all available sources, invoke mutual aid agreements, and apply to the State of Nebraska for assistance from the Governor’s Emergency Fund and other resources he deems necessary in the fulfillment of his duties. Although, Leal further explained that Cheyenne County must reach a certain financial stage known as the Federal Disaster County Threshold, which is determined by NEMA for each Nebraska county. Cheyenne County must show a total cost of greater than $37,792.44 in order to be eligible for any state funds for emergency help. Based on the estimated price for replacement power poles, Leal believes the County should have no problem in meeting, and exceeding, the Threshold total.

- Dewayne Cook