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McDonnell plans disaster relief in Sandy's wake

Gov. Bob McDonnell held his final scheduled press briefing Tuesday in Richmond to discuss the impact of Hurricane Sandy in Virginia and the state’s recovery efforts.

Hurricane Sandy took a heavy toll on much of the Atlantic seaboard, particularly in states such as New Jersey and New York, but Virginia was spared the brunt of the storm.

McDonnell declared a state of emergency Friday in anticipation of heavy damage to the state. The commonwealth has already been awarded a federal disaster declaration that requires FEMA to issue federal resources to the state if necessary.

Some parts of Virginia have been badly affected. Parts of western Virginia are experiencing blizzard conditions and warnings, some southeastern areas of the state have flooded and many in northern Virginia will not regain power until Thursday evening, according to a Dominion Power Company release.

“There are currently about 400,000 without power, 92,000 of which are in Northern Virginia,” McDonnell said. “We anticipate to virtually restore power to all by Thursday night.”

These numbers only comprise 15 percent of the power outages of the summer’s derecho wind storm.

McDonnell was joined by other Virginia officials in fielding press questions, including representatives from the state Police Department, Public Safety, power companies and the Department of Emergency Management.

McDonnell announced a grace period for Virginians with license and permit deadlines due at the end of the month. The deadline to renew driver’s licenses and state inspections has been extended to Nov. 9 to accommodate citizens and state agencies affected by the hurricane.

Addressing voter concerns, McDonnell has also sent a letter to voting offices requesting that they stay open an additional eight hours to accommodate absentee voters. “This doesn’t change who is qualified to vote, as Virginia doesn’t do early voting,” he said. The state only offers in-person absentee voting to those with a valid excuse.

McDonnell said he has been in touch with numerous governors, including Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ®. While answering questions, McDonnell said, “When you have natural disasters, partisanship goes out the window.”