Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a major disaster declaration has been issued by the federal government for the 18 counties that sustained damages during the severe storms and flash flooding October 31 and November 1, 2019. With this declaration, FEMA has validated state and local government estimates that more than $33 million in response costs and infrastructure damage was incurred following the storms.
This approval is the next step toward gaining financial assistance from the federal government to allow local communities to continue to recover and rebuild. Through FEMA’s Public Assistance program, reimbursement can be received for activities such as debris removal, emergency protective measures and the repairing and rebuilding of publicly-owned infrastructure, including roads, public schools, bridges, parks, hospitals, police stations, firehouses, water, and wastewater treatment facilities and other public facilities.
The 18 counties included in the declaration are Chautauqua, Chenango, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Oswego, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga, and Warren Counties.
“The federal government has validated our experts’ assessments on the damage this storm caused to public infrastructure, but it is only the first step in getting the assistance we need to help these communities build back,” Governor Cuomo said. “I was on the ground the morning after the storm and witnessed firsthand the severe damage sustained by hundreds of homes, and the federal government must now do its part to ensure these families immediately get the funds they need to repair and rebuild their lives.”
The federal government has not yet decided on New York’s request for funding to support homeowners under the Individual Assistance program. The Governor’s request detailed how 18 homes were destroyed, 135 sustained major damage, 136 sustained minor damage and 110 were otherwise affected by the storm.
Congressman Anthony Brindisi said, “Our communities were devastated by the recent floods and this public assistance is a good first step to making us whole again. These dollars will help with cleanup and rebuilding our public infrastructure, but I will keep fighting for individual assistance as well. I urged the Administration to respond quickly to our needs and I am hopeful they will release additional funds to the families that lost everything.”
With the issuance of the federal disaster declaration, the State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will work with local partners to identify recovery projects to apply for reimbursement through the Public Assistance program. FEMA will then review the projects for eligibility and conduct site visits with the Division and local officials to scope and combine projects, as appropriate. Once a project is identified and the initial site visit has been conducted, FEMA, Division staff and the locality will develop the Project Worksheet, which includes a damage description, scope of work and cost estimate. Following a final FEMA eligibility review, funding will be obligated to the project.
State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Patrick A. Murphy said, “This year’s Halloween storm had a devastating impact on upstate New York, and state agencies continue to work with our local partners on assessing and repairing the damage caused by Mother Nature. With the federal government doing the right thing and heeding the Governor’s call for a major disaster declaration, impacted communities now have the ability to access funding critical for building back better.”
“This federal declaration is welcome news and a step in the right direction to help the overburdened taxpayers whose communities were directly impacted by the Halloween storm begin to rebuild and recover from this devastating event,” said Senator Jim Tedisco. “We still need FEMA to approve federal assistance to the taxpayers and homeowners who have lost so much in this storm and we need to ensure the federal funds get to the counties, towns, villages and local governments in a timely and expedited manner to make these individuals and communities whole again.”
The National Weather Service and New York State Mesonet data indicate upstate New York received a widespread two to five inches of rain with isolated amounts up to seven inches during the storm. Although it began on October 31 and lasted into November 1, most rain fell within a six-hour period. This storm produced heavy rainfall, flash flooding, and strong winds. In fact, flooding reached record levels on the West Canada Creek at the Hinckley Dam and Kast Bridge, Sacandaga River at Hope and Mohawk River at Little Falls. Some residents in the Mohawk Valley also needed to be evacuated, including residents in the Village of Frankfort in Herkimer County near Moyer Creek and in Chadwicks in Oneida County near Sauquoit Creek. Forty State and local members of Task Force 2, the State’s swift water rescue team, rescued 65 people and 14 animals during the storm.
Over the course of the storm, more than 100 state roads were damaged, closed, or otherwise impassable at the peak of the incident from floodwaters that overtopped multiple roads, bridges, and culverts. The damage was caused by several weather-related factors ranging from erosion of roadway shoulders and damage to bridges, to complete destruction of culverts and roadways. Utility crews also had to restore power to more than 650,000 electric customers affected by the heavy rain, strong winds, and gusts that lashed New York State beginning Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. At its peak, there were 246,621 customers without power.