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Obama OK’s upstate flood aid

Montgomery among 12 eligible counties

Friday, July 12, 2013
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Franchise owner John Hart, right, walks through the wreckage of his Save-A-Lot food store in Fort Plain on July 1.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Franchise owner John Hart, right, walks through the wreckage of his Save-A-Lot food store in Fort Plain on July 1.

— Montgomery County and 11 other upstate counties ravaged by recent severe storms and flooding will receive federal disaster aid, President Barack Obama said Friday.

Obama declared a major disaster exists in the counties and ordered the aid, which will be used to supplement state and local efforts to fix damage done by flooding that occurred between June 28 and July 4.

In addition to Montgomery County, the counties eligible for federal funding are: Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Niagara, Oneida, Otsego and Warren.

Severe flooding caused by persistent rains damaged houses, closed roads and forced people to flee their homes in the Mohawk Valley on June 28. Heavy rains caused the Mohawk River to overflow its banks where it traverses the southern end of Herkimer County, while the Otsquago Creek spilled over its banks in Fort Plain, causing major flooding that damaged much of the downtown area and led to the death of one elderly woman when her mobile home was swept away.

Among the assistance counties are eligible for, according to a statement from the Federal Emergency Management agency, is payment of at least 75 percent of the cost to repair or replace damaged public facilities, as well as those of some nonprofit, community service groups, and as much as 75 percent of the cost of hazard mitigation projects.

The assistance will be administered by state officials, according to FEMA, which will host a series of briefings with state and local officials to explain the application process.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he requested the federal aid after preliminary damage assessments by state and local authorities showed there was more than $32.7 million in damage to public infrastructure.

“Since June, when the rain and floods ravaged many communities across the state, I said I would do everything I could to bring relief and aid to the citizens and communities that have been damaged so badly,” Cuomo said in a statement Friday night.

On Monday, Cuomo said he’d call the state Legislature back to address the flooding if the federal government declined to issue a disaster declaration.

“I have seen firsthand the level of destruction and mayhem these floods have caused in the Mohawk Valley, the North Country and Western New York,” Cuomo said Friday. “It is a tragedy that so many communities of hard-working, decent New Yorkers have seen their lives turned upside down by the unpredictable and tragic impact of these severe storms and floods. … Now, with the aid available from these public assistance funds, we know that we will be able to set to the task of rebuilding and reinvigorating our communities that have suffered so much.”

FEMA said it is assessing whether more counties may be eligible for assistance. Regis Leo Phelan, who is serving as federal coordinating officer for recovery operations in upstate New York, said damage surveys are continuing in other counties and additional assistance may be made available after all assessments are complete.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 
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