TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Gov. Chris Christie on Monday requested the federal government to issue a major disaster declaration for severe thunderstorms that caused more than $15 million worth of damage and knocked out power to 300,000 people in southern New Jersey last month.

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In a letter to President Barack Obama sent through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Christie asked that Atlantic, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties be included in the declaration.

The storm was of "such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected county and local governments," Christie wrote in the letter.

If approved federal funds will be made available to reimburse state and local agencies for emergency work.

The decision comes after preliminary assessments showed the state met federal eligibility requirements. The June 23 storm carried winds with gusts up to 85 miles per hour and heavy rain, Christie said.

Some criticized Christie after the storm for not seeking help sooner, blaming his presidential campaign as a distraction.

Christie responded that he would request federal help if warranted.

Spokesman Kevin Roberts says the disaster declaration was sought "promptly" after the federal, state and local assessments were completed and officials determined that the thresholds had been met.


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