President Barack Obama has declared a federal disaster area in the counties most devastated by Wednesday’s storms, which means people in those areas will be able to apply for federal aid.

Federal aid will be available directly for residents of Bartow, Catoosa, Dade, Floyd, Polk, Spalding and Walker counties. Also in his designation, Obama made federal funding available to state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis in Bartow, Catoosa, Coweta, Dade, Floyd, Greene, Lamar, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Spalding, Troup and Walker counties for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance.

Gov. Nathan Deal says he appreciates Obama’s prompt response in approving a federal disaster declaration.

Deal said in a statement shortly before noon Saturday that Georgia’s congressional delegation jumped into gear to seek federal aid. He said the efforts paid off with Saturday’s announcement that the funds had been approved.

The storms killed 15 people and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses late Wednesday and early Thursday.

People can start applying for the funding Sunday. You can apply for that funding online by clicking here.

You can also apply by phone by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.

The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.