Feds clear funds for NNY storm damage

A boathouse in Thousand Islands Park collapses into the St. Lawrence River after a storm earlier this year on Wellesley Island. Julia Hopkins/Watertown Daily Times

Communities across upstate New York that sustained damage from a far-reaching storm around Halloween will have access to federal funds for repairs after it was declared a major disaster.

President Donald J. Trump on Friday approved the major disaster declaration for the storm that brought high winds and rain across 18 counties, including Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties, between Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the declaration provides funding opportunities to the state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain nonprofit groups. The funds, which will be provided on a cost-sharing basis, could be used to repair and replace damaged facilities and for hazard mitigation.

“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,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wrote in a statement.

Trees fell across hundreds of peoples’ properties throughout the north country during the storm, some landing on homes, power lines, roads and cars. Tree limbs, branches, bark and debris covered the streets alongside fallen signs, plants and, in at least one case, a basketball hoop. Widespread rainfall, ranging from 1.5 to 4 inches across the region, and runoff resulted in some flooded homes, roads and yards.

Roaring waves fueled by bursting gales also wreaked havoc in communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River by flooding homes, destroying and damaging boat houses and yanking docks and boats away from shores. The storm also caused part of Clayton’s Riverwalk to collapse when gusts yanked away a dock that was connected to sheet pile in the walkway that dated back to the 1980s.

Experts determined that the storm caused $33 million in damage to public infrastructure, and specialists identified 18 homes that were destroyed, 135 that sustained major damage, 136 that sustained minor damage and 110 that were affected in other ways, according to the governor’s office.

While the federal government approved public assistance for the affected counties, aid for individuals, which the governor requested for Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer and Oneida counties, remains pending. U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who both urged the president to approve the declaration, applauded his decision, but also pushed for the individual assistance in a joint announcement.

“While this is a positive first step, it is past time for New Yorkers to get the help they need to recover, and the Trump Administration must not drag its feet in providing critical aid to individual households as well,” Sen. Gillibrand wrote in a statement. “With the estimated damage costs of these storms reaching tens of millions of dollars, our communities can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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