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President Obama officially declares New York a disaster

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For all the joking people in New York City did about the disappointing performance of Hurricane Irene — and I can't say I didn't make, laugh at, or forward some of those cracks — the storm in fact slammed regions north of the city, causing incredible flooding that in many cases is only now receding. (Having family in the area, I've received on-the-ground confirmation that shit is seriously grim up there right now.) Governor Andrew Cuomo already declared a state of emergency, and now President Obama has done the same:

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of New York and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by Hurricane Irene beginning on August 26, 2011, and continuing.

The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Albany, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Ulster.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

I don't think people from the city genuinely wish Irene had been more exciting/destructive; the jokes seem, to me at least, to be a way for many of us to cover up the fact that we were legitimately scared for a while there. And I don't think that's necessary unreasonable — lots of people use humor to move past frightening experiences. But it's good to remind ourselves that while we're laughing about the horrors of the nearest Starbucks being closed for a whole twenty-four hours, stuff like this is happening to our fellow New Yorkers up north: