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Record Clean-Up Cost Already Cash-Strapped Localities Eligible for Federal Aid - Late December Blizzard Blanketed Long Island with Nearly Three Feet of Snow

Schumer to Alert FEMA to Damage Estimates and Huge Costs and Asks for Quick Approval

Schumer: We Can't Let the White Snow Leave Long Island Communities in the Red

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urging them to declare a snow disaster in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island after the devastating December 19-20 blizzard blanketed the area dumping nearly 30 inches of snow. Cash-strapped localities incurred tens of millions of dollars in costs due to damage to infrastructure as well as emergency costs. While New York State is required to request federal aid first, Schumer is applying the pressure early to ensure that Long Island gets the help it needs.   


“There is no doubt that Nassau and Suffolk counties need aid right away to help recover from the massive December snowstorm,” Schumer said. “Long Island’s first responders and emergency workers have done an outstanding job cleaning up after the storm and assisting the people of Long Island get back on track, but they shouldn’t be the ones to foot the bill. It’s time for FEMA to step up to the plate and get federal aid here to those who need it.”


"I thank Senator Schumer for his efforts to secure federal assistance for Brookhaven Town," said Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko, "Brookhaven had the highest snowfall amounts on Long Island during this blizzard and federal aid will go a long way to help pay for the clean up of the worst snow storm in the Town's history".


The heavy snow storm slammed Long Island and yielded almost thirty inches of snow on December 19 and 20, 2009. This record breaking snowfall immobilized the region’s airports and transit systems, making it difficult to impossible for residents to get to essential destinations. This storm also knocked out power to nearly 300 homes, forcing emergency crews to work around the clock and local businesses to close. The extent of damage clearly meets federal guidelines, with preliminary damage assessments for Nassau, Suffolk, and New York City topping $30 million.   


According to the National Weather Service, Long Island was one of the hardest-hit places in the country.  In the Town of Brookhaven for example, 26.3 inches was measured in Upton by the National Weather Service, which represents the highest total snowfall in a single storm since 1949. The previous record was 23 inches in 1978.


According to Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent John Rouse, “Brookhaven was the epicenter of this storm and with our Highway snow removal budget near zero for 2009 the Senator’s help with securing FEMA relief will enable us to hold the line on taxes for this year, which will insure that the residents of Brookhaven do not have to foot the bill for this natural disaster.”


Initial estimates report that Nassau County alone spent $1.2 million for clean up, not including police overtime. The Town of Hempstead reported more than $1 million, with the towns of North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Glen Cove, Valley Stream, Freeport all spending well over $100,000.  In Suffolk, estimates show over $15 million in damage, with the Town of Brookhaven being one of the hardest-hit Towns, reporting $3 million in costs alone.  The Town of Islip also reported nearly $1 million in costs.  Emergency management teams plan to meet in New York on Wednesday to begin calculating costs incurred to the City.


A storm of this magnitude left cash-strapped communities across Long Island with hefty cleanup costs, business closures, snow cleanup and removal, and home and infrastructure repair costs in the millions of dollars. The severity and magnitude of this storm is beyond the capabilities of the effected local governments.


If the President approves the disaster declaration, Nassau and Suffolk would be in line to receive millions in federal reimbursements. These reimbursements cover a wide range of costs including debris removal, overtime reimbursements to municipal employees, and to repairing/rebuilding public roads, bridges, buildings. When feds grant PA money to county, it means the feds will cover 75% of the tab, with states and locals making up the remaining 25%.


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