Gov. Chris Gregoire Declares State of Emergency; Dairy Cows Rejoice

In the wake of freezing rain, widepsread power outages, grounded flights, and treacherous road conditions, Gov. Chrs Gregoire this morning declared a state of emergency. The governor called it a "purely precautionary measure," and said that no one has yet asked for state assistance.

By declaring a state of emergency, the governor and her emergency team are given extra latitude to deal with a dire situation quickly and with maximum coordination.

Most governor's powers are fairly straightforward and include making recommendations for evacutions if need be and activating the National Guard, which Gregoire has done, primarily to help the state's milk industry, which faces the specter of losing $1 million a day if it can't move its product from farms to dairy processing facilities.

An emergency declaration, for instance, enables the state's chief executive to waive rules for truck-driver hours, and pave the way for state resources to meet emergency needs of local jurisdictions, according to the governor's office.

If conditions were to become catastrophic, Gregorie, as any governor has the power to do, could call for a federal emergency, in which case FEMA officials would be called on to perform preliminary damage assessments to determine whether the governor should petition the President for a federal emergency declaration.

The last time Gregoire issued a state of emergency was Feb. 15, 2011, for severe winter storms that occurred between Jan. 9-26, which cost homes and businesses in 17 counties nearly $1.1 million in damages.

As of late this morning, more than 90,000 Puget Sound Energy customers are without power, mostly in south King County and Pierce and Thurston counties.

The ice storm warning issued by the National Weather Service for most of Western Washington will remain in effect until noon.

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