Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday formally requested that President Barack Obama issue a major disaster declaration for New York state as a result of severe storms and major flooding that occurred on June 27 and 28.
Previously, Cuomo declared a state disaster emergency that included Broome, Chenango, Clinton, Essex, Delaware, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Schoharie, St. Lawrence, Tioga and Warren counties.
More than 13,000 people were without power at the height of the storm, and one person was swept away by the floodwaters in the village of Fort Plain and is presumed dead.
“In response to this unfolding disaster, I requested technical assistance in the form of a joint preliminary damage assessment which will be conducted starting July 1. Results of these PDAs will validate the state’s pre-assessment numbers and capture any additional damages that the state’s teams were not able to see because of continuing flooding. After one day of state pre-assessment of damages, we have estimated that there is already $13,069,457 in damages in nine out of 12 affected counties, and much of that represents only one or two communities in each county,” said Cuomo.
“There are many other municipalities that cannot yet begin to assess damages as floodwaters have not receded. This number also does not affect damages to state owned property, such as the canal system, nor does it capture the cost of debris removal or emergency protective measures. The true cost of this disaster will only be known once the waters recede in all affected areas and all of the damage becomes evident. We are confident that once we complete damage assessments in these areas, it will far exceed the state’s per capita threshold of $26.7 million,” added Cuomo.
During a tour of the storm-ravaged Mohawk Valley on Monday afternoon, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged homeowners and business owners who suffered property damage to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“There are three ways to apply for assistance - online at DisasterAssistance.gov, via a smartphone at m.fema.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362,” Gillibrand, D - Brunswick, said during a tour of the village of Mohawk where she met with first responders, received a briefing from Herkimer County officials and toured flood damaged streets.
In Mohawk, which has a population of 3,500 and was entirely without power because a substation was inundated with ten feet of water, Gillibrand encouraged residents to seek out first responders or service agency volunteers who may have access to a laptop so they may apply for assistance, if electricity has not yet been restored to their home or business.
“These heavy storms and floods swept away homes, businesses, roads and highways all the way from the Adirondacks to the Mohawk Valley to the Southern Tier,” she said. “These communities are suffering and need every available resource from the federal government without delay so we can clean up, rebuild and stand strong.”
Page 2 of 3 - Gillibrand urged homeowners to file FEMA paperwork as quickly as possible.
“Homeowners who do will get a FEMA number and will be able to itemize what’s been lost, what’s been damaged and will help us get our designation,” she said.
Congressman Richard Hanna, R - Barneveld, joined Gillibrand on the tour and said he was confident the state would reach its $26.7 million threshold to receive federal aid.
“It’s $3.27 cents per capita, per county and $27 million for the state. I’ll stick my neck out, because I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ll get there,” he said.
Hanna said the flooding caused by the overflowing of the Mohawk River due to heavy rainfall has ravaged 15 counties, forced hundreds to evacuate from their homes, destroyed countless amounts of personal property and rendered critical infrastructure such as water treatment plants, power stations and canal locks inoperable or significantly damaged.
In four of the hardest hit municipalities, there are 44 destroyed homes, 75 with major damage, and more than 757 with minor damage.
“Upstate New York has been hammered with severe flooding and dangerous debris after days of heavy rainfall, and the Mohawk Valley, foothills of the Adirondacks and portions of the Southern Tier and Hudson Valley have borne the brunt of the damage,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who joined Gillibrand in urging FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to swiftly approve Cuomo’s request for a federal state of emergency declaration. “It is critical that we get federal resources on the ground as soon as possible, so they can rebuild after this severe weather. This federal disaster assistance is necessary because it will give reassurance to our communities that the federal government will be there to help respond and recover, and we urge the president and FEMA to grant this designation and approve New York state’s request as quickly as possible.”
Gillibrand said federal disaster designation could potentially help Herkimer County residents like David Ryan, who has lived in his West Center Street home in Mohawk for two years and lost his furnace, hot water tank, washer and dryer to the flood.
“When I left the water was to the rafters in the basement. I didn’t think there would be a house to come back to,” Ryan said as he removed debris from his basement on Monday.
The designation could also help Herkimer resident Joe Burdick.
“I’ve been here for 40 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said outside his Bellinger Street home Monday afternoon. “The help has been great though. I had six or seven volunteers - people I never met before and people I may never meet again - here helping me clean out. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Page 3 of 3 - Ryan also credited his family and neighbors for helping clean out his basement.
“We’ve been busy since Friday and I certainly appreciate the help I’ve received,” he said.