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Riley declares state of Emergency

REGION-Gov. Bob Riley on Sunday declared an official state of emergency in Alabama due to the imminent threat posed by Hurricane Katrina. The emergency declaration enables the Governor to invoke various emergency preparedness measures including Alabama’s price gouging law.

In addition, Governor Riley also asked President Bush to issue an “expedited major disaster declaration” for six counties in the southwestern part of Alabamaas Hurricane Katrina continued its approach.

The six counties are: Mobile, Baldwin, Washington, Clarke, Choctaw and Sumter. Other counties could be added later.

Riley said these counties are expected to receive the greatest damage according to information he has received.

“Based upon current information, these counties are likely to receive the most significant damage in Alabama from the hurricane,” Riley said. “The state is estimating cost figures in the excess of several million dollars. As soon as conditions allow, the state will be requesting post-disaster damage assessment assistance.”

A federal disaster declaration would open up a number of different types of federal resources for the state. Under a federal declaration, storm victims would be able to apply for various types of assistance measures including temporary housing assistance, individual family grants, loans and grants to repair homes and businesses, and disaster unemployment assistance.

Riley also warned against price gouging as the hurricane approaches. State Attorney General Troy King issued a statement Monday morning to warn unscrupulous contractors and businesses that he will take action against those who see to profit illegally at the expense of those who suffer damage from Hurricane Katrina.

“The good people of Alabama stand together in times of crisis and we have laws to protect against those who profiteer and take advantage of their fellow citizen’s King said. “It is despicable and against the law to charge outrageous amounts for necessities that people must have in times of emergency.”

King said they would tolerate no one taking advantage of citizen’s in their time of need.

“While this storm may inflict damage on our state, we wil not tolerate allowing anyone to take advantage of and inflict further damage on the people of Alabama,” King said. “My office will closely monitor this storm and we will continue to pray for those in harms way.”

Riley said the State of Alabama has pre-positioned supplies, dispatched National Guard troops to Mobile and Baldwin counties, and opened emergency shelters in advance of Hurricane Katrina. He said the Black Belt would play an important role in helping the area get through Katrina.

“Selma is serving as FEMA’s supply staging area for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and we’ve pre-positioned other supplies at Maxwell Air Force Base,” Riley said. “I’ve spoken with President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff, both of whom have assured me they will offer any assistance we may need to recover from this devastating storm.”

Riley said the state already has 290,000 bags of ice, more than 250,000 gallons of water, 652,000 MREs (meals ready to eat), and 110,000 tarps measuring 20 feet by 25 feet.

Bruce Baughman, Director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said 14 rescue teams are on standby and 26 emergency shelters, including three for people with special medical needs, are open across the state.

“State EMA coordinators are working side-by-side with local emergency officials to expedite any requests for state assistance,” Baughman said.

As of Monday morning the National Weather Service in Birmingham felt the storm could have a catastrophic impact on West Alabama as it moves up from the Gulf Coast.

Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist in Charge of the Birmingham National Weather Service Office, said Katrina is a storm of historic proportions.

“Based on the latest forecast, a storm surge of around 20 feet is possible in the northern part of Mobile Bay,” Stefkovich said. “This would be the highest surge level ever experienced in Mobile. A storm tide of 10 to 12 feet is expected along coastal Baldwin County.”