Nearly 300 people in Niobrara and Johnson counties seek federal flood disaster assistance

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Nearly 300 people in Niobrara and Johnson counties have applied for federal disaster assistance to help them recover from spring flooding, and nearly $1.9 million in grants and loans have been approved for eligible residents and businesses in the two counties, officials said.

The two counties were declared disaster areas last month because of flooding and severe storms that occurred in late May and early June. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is leading the federal aid effort.

"The FEMA folks have been out in the community making sure that everybody is notified of their opportunities, and we feel like it's going pretty smooth," Kelly Ruiz, spokeswoman for the state Office of Homeland Security, said.

FEMA spokesman Brian Hvinden said Friday that he didn't expect many more people to apply for aid, which includes grants and low-interest loans for temporary housing, repairs and replacement of property.

"We're probably pretty close to where we'll end up with, and it's actually about what we expected," Hvinden said. "But certainly if there are still individuals out there that were impacted by the flooding and haven't done so we would still encourage them to register for assistance."

More than a dozen homes were destroyed and about 140 were damaged, along with some 60 businesses, between May 24 and June 6 in the two counties.

Most of the damage occurred June 4 in Niobrara County, where the Niobrara River flooded into downtown Lusk and knocked down a bridge on U.S. 85 on the north side of town.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation has erected a temporary two-lane bridge that can handle most vehicles. But oversize and overweight trucks must detour to Wyoming 270 at Manville until a permanent bridge can be built.

Flooding also damaged public infrastructure in Albany and Platte counties, and a separate disaster declaration has been made for those counties.

The damage to public infrastructure is still being assessed, Ruiz said.

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