Irene: FEMA houses coming for flood victims

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began transporting emergency housing to Cobleskill on Thursd

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began transporting emergency housing to Cobleskill on Thursday to help dozens of families displaced by Tropical Storm Irene.

FEMA help

• To register, call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays. People with hearing disabilities can use the TTY number 800-462-7585. People can also register on the Internet at

• Registration can also be done via a mobile device capable of Internet access, such as a smartphone, at by following the link that says “apply online for federal assistance.”

FEMA spokesman Chris Mckniff said he expects more than 20 manufactured homes to be delivered today and into the weekend.

The agency has been evaluating needs in flood-stricken areas and began pointing displaced flood survivors to areas where rental space is available. “We continuously look at all housing needs,” Mckniff said.

The agency also has mobile homes, but manufactured housing is considered more appropriate in the Northeast due to winter cold and snow, he said.

The development is seen as good news in the town of Esperance, where officials have estimated the loss of houses and mobile homes to be in the dozens. Getting housing set up before winter sets in would be great, Esperance town Supervisor Earl Van Wormer III said Thursday.

“I’m hoping they’re going to make some available to the people in Esperance,” he said. “I’ve got people living in their cars and in campers.”

It’s unclear yet how many people are unable to get into rental units or find alternate housing.

According to the most recent figures provided by FEMA, 1,420 people from Schoharie County have applied for some form of assistance. Another 1,104 residents in Schenectady County sought help, as did 577 from Rensselaer County, 434 from Montgomery County and 585 from Albany County.

The houses, called “Temporary Housing Units,” will provide people with a place to stay with utilities while they repair their damaged homes or rebuild, according to FEMA.

“Our goal is to help people repair their homes as quickly as possible. The temporary housing units meet short-term housing needs, while flood survivors make repairs,” FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Philip E. Parr said in a news release.

FEMA individual assistance staff members will be evaluating the need for housing and then find appropriate places for the units. That process will entail avoiding flood zones and finding sites where power and wastewater services are available.

These types of homes have been used in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas following hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, according to the FEMA website.

Mckniff said Cobleskill will serve as a staging area for the units. Once a site is approved, FEMA will schedule an occupancy date with people who will live there rent-free but must pay for their utilities.

The manufactured housing is one of the means emergency officials are exploring, Schoharie County Emergency Management Director Judith Warner said. The county is also seeking approval from the state to make use of the shuttered Summit Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility on Eagle Heights Road, Warner said.

“We are actively working on getting some sort of a blended-type housing situation for the people,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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