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Double whammy to be counted as single hit

Gov. Martin O'Malley says the federal government has agreed to consider lqast weekend's snowstorm and last night and today's powerful blizzard as a single event for the purposes of applying for federal disaster relief.

O'Malley said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski put him in touch with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who agreed to the request.

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Officials said the combination of the two storms into a single event increases the chances of federal approval of the state's application for federal relief. The twin storms, along with another 20-inch-plus snowfall in December, have stretched the state's budget for winter road clearance to the breaking point.

O'Malley said the federal disaster assistance is "definitely a secondary consideration" to the immediate emergency response, but still welcomed the federal decision. The state plans to submit its application for federal aid in about 30 days. If it is approved the state and local governments could be reimbursed for 75 percent of the cost of the emergency response.

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