(Washington D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate about the flood damage in Western Washington. Senator Murray offered her condolences to victims, thanked the Governor and rescue workers for their swift response, and discussed her commitment help bring federal support to the state.
Senator Murray’s full remarks on the Senate floor follow:
Mr. President, in the last two days, the Pacific Northwest has been hit by devastating storms. Winds and dangerous floods and mudslides washed out roads and homes and cut off power to thousands.
Today, the pouring rain and winds may be gone. But Mr. President, thousands of people are still coping with the damage.
We won’t know the full impact of this storm for some time, but our governor has estimated that the cost will be billions of dollars. My heart goes out to everyone in my home state of Washington and in Oregon coping with the aftermath of this storm. Those people are in my thoughts constantly. I am working with state, local and federal entities to be sure that everybody gets the services and the support they need.
Thanks to Governor, Rescue Workers
Mr. President, I want to thank Governor Gregoire of Washington state for her strong leadership through this disaster. She has been working tirelessly to coordinate the rescue efforts. And I also want to send a very heartfelt thanks to all of the rescue workers who have been working night and day this week rescuing people from their flooded homes and vehicles, flying in supplies to those who are stranded, and working to clear roads and railways that are still swamped. So far, the Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard and other agencies have rescued at least 300 people by helicopter. It is the state’s largest aerial search-and-rescue operation in a decade.
Scope of the Damage
So Mr. President, let me paint a picture for you of the damage that has occurred so far: Parts of southwest Washington look like a sea of brown water. Homes are flooded up to their roofs. Entire communities have been isolated by swamped roads.
On the coast, winds of up to 100 miles per hour have knocked out power to thousands. In some areas, it’s tough to assess how bad the damage is because people are isolated without power or phones.
I know that relatives from outside the area are desperately trying to reach their loved ones who have been affected. We are doing everything we can to help.
Finally, Mr. President, one of the hardest hit areas has been Interstate 5 – a major artery linking Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. The highway has been closed since Monday, and some estimates say it could remain closed for several days. It has forced cars and trucks traveling from Seattle to Portland to detour through the Tri-Cities – a drive that takes at least four hours longer, and means drivers have to cross the mountain pass east of Seattle.
Mr. President, it is hard to explain the impact of this. But estimates of the cost from delays on that highway alone have been placed at $4 million a day to businesses, which rely on I-5 in order to move goods quickly and safely.
I said in a speech earlier today that the impact of these storms reinforces how important our transportation infrastructure is to everyone. We are all one rainstorm, one bridge disaster away from huge impacts to our economy and to families’ lives.
So again Mr. President, I want to send my heartfelt thanks to everyone working so hard in Washington state and to all who are affected by these storms.
You are in our thoughts every minute, and my heart goes out to you.