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US to give disaster aid in 7 Vt. counties

MONTPELIER -- The federal government has approved a disaster declaration for seven Vermont counties hit hard by a northeaster that caused widespread damage, officials said yesterday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay up to 75 percent of the storm-cleanup costs borne by cities and towns following the April 15-April 16 storm in the following counties: Bennington, Rutland, Caledonia, Essex, Orange, Windham, and Windsor.

The storm dropped up to 17 inches of snow in some places, but its most potent force was wind.

Gusts of up to 70 miles per hour knocked down trees and power lines and left Rutland and other communities in the dark for days.

"The initial damage assessment was $2 million, and that number will certainly climb as final repair estimates are determined," Governor Jim Douglas said.

"This declaration will provide much needed relief to Vermont's hardest hit communities as they continue to clean up and rebuild," Douglas said.

The money will go to rebuild roads and bridges and reimburse towns for the costs of removing debris.

Communities will be able to apply for funds to cover overtime paid to municipal employees because of the storm.

FEMA will set up a satellite office in White River Junction to process claims.