SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND URGE FEMA TO STAND READY TO QUICKLY APPROVE POTENTIAL DISASTER DECLARATION FOR UPSTATE COMMUNITIES RAVAGED BY TROPICAL STORM FRED
On August 18th, Remnants of Tropical Storm Fred Ravaged Steuben, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida Counties and Several Other Upstate Communities, Damaging Homes, Businesses, Bridges, Roads, And Inundating a Local School With Nearly 4 Feet of Water And Debris
Senators Say FEMA Disaster Declaration Would Unlock Federal Funds For Steuben County And Other Impacted Communities In The Southern Tier, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, And Finger Lakes
Senators To FEMA: Mobilize Disaster Assessment Teams & Stand Ready To Approve Any Requested Aid For Upstate Municipalities and Residents
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to approve any request from New York State for a major disaster declaration following the severe flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred that rampaged through the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Central New York, and the Finger Lakes regions on August 18th. The senators specifically referenced Steuben County as being particularly battered by the storm, which wreaked havoc across New York State. During the storm, New York received over 7 inches of rain in three days, with 24-hour totals exceeding 3 inches in many locations and one receiving over 5 inches, helping make this one the wettest summers in the region. On the night of August 18th, Swift Water Rescue Crews had to be deployed to assist dozens of residents evacuate their homes and take refuge in shelters. In the Southern Tier, rushing floodwaters damaged hundreds of homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and were so powerful they even caused a train to derail. Local creeks reached historic levels, with the Tuscarora Creek cresting at over 14 feet. Communities in Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Lewis also saw heavy rains, flooding, and damage.
Additionally, the storm resulted in the Jasper-Troupsburg High School becoming inundated with nearly four feet of water and mud, causing severe damage. On August 19th, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Steuben County. Schumer and Gillibrand requested that FEMA actively prepare to issue a disaster declaration for the storm-ravaged Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Central New York and Finger Lakes communities, and additionally, to be prepared to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, should the state request it.
“Steuben County and communities across the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Central New York and the Finger Lakes were ravaged by Tropical Storm Fred’s heavy rain and historic flooding levels,” said Senator Schumer. “The damage is major and will likely total tens of millions of dollars in costs suffered, including the severely damaged Jasper-Troupsburg school. FEMA needs to mobilize its Disaster Assessment Teams and stand ready to swiftly approve any forthcoming requests from the state for assistance to help these communities recover.”
“Flooding from Tropical Storm Fred devastated communities across Central New York and the Southern Tier, forcing families to flee their homes and causing severe damage to roads, bridges, businesses, and schools,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As these communities begin the process of rebuilding, FEMA should do everything in its power to ensure that aid is deployed swiftly should the state request it.”
If a disaster declaration is declared, grant assistance would be made available to state and local governments, as well as certain non-profit organizations, to reimburse costs incurred for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. This funding is available on a cost-sharing basis; FEMA generally covers 75 percent of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work. After any severe storm, the first step in the declaration process is for the state to request a Preliminary Damage Assessment, during which FEMA representatives join state, local, and other officials to survey damage across storm-impacted counties to help determine whether the cost of the disaster meets the criteria for a federal disaster declaration. Schumer and Gillibrand urged FEMA to be prepared to support any requests for aid from New York State.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the president to issue “major disaster” or “emergency” declarations before or after catastrophes occur. The decision to issue a disaster declaration is at the discretion of the president, and must be requested by the governor of the state. These declarations unlock federal aid through FEMA that is broken into two broad areas: Individual Assistance (IA) that aids families and individuals, and Public Assistance (PA) that is mainly for emergency work such as debris removal and permanent repairs to infrastructure. When assessing the degree of PA damage, FEMA considers six factors: estimated cost of the assistance, localized impact, insurance coverage, hazard mitigation, recent disaster, and programs of other federal assistance. Regarding the cost, FEMA has certain thresholds that have to be met to qualify for PA specific to the state and the counties in question.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter appears below:
Dear Administrator Criswell:
We write in strong support of communities in New York affected by recent severe weather. We urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready, if requested, to work with affected counties and New York State to determine whether damage meets the statutory threshold for FEMA disaster assistance, and if it does, to make assistance available as expeditiously as possible.
A prolonged period of rain, combined with the tropical remnants of Tropical Storm Fred, reached New York early on August 17 and brought with it significant rainfall, flooding, and flash floods to several counties across Central New York, the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier. On August 19, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Steuben County. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, locations in multiple counties in Central Upstate New York received over 7 inches of rain in three days, with 24-hour totals exceeding 3 inches in many locations and one receiving over 5 inches, helping make this one the wettest summers in the region. Rain is still falling as of 3:00 PM on August 19. The prolonged rain produced flash flooding, strong winds, and caused creeks to reach historic levels. During the night of August 18, Swift Water Rescue Crews were deployed to assist dozens of residents evacuating. In the Southern Tier, rushing floodwaters damaged hundreds of homes, roads, bridges, caused a train to derail, and inundated a local school with nearly four feet of water, causing significant damage. As communities across New York continue their recovery from this unexpected storm, we urge FEMA to stand ready to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, should the state request it.
We are grateful for the prompt attention that the federal government has historically give in responding to disaster impacting New York State. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to approve any forthcoming requests for FEMA assistance from New York State as affected communities begin their recovery from these storms.