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Federal funds sought for Halloween storm damage

Federal funds sought for Halloween storm damage

All three Capital Region members of Congress support disaster declaration
Federal funds sought for Halloween storm damage
Sand Creek Road in Day in Saratoga County was closed after a late October storm damaged it.
Photographer: Erica Miller

CAPITAL REGION -- The heavy wind and rainstorms that swept across upstate New York for three days starting on Halloween, and the subsequent flooding, caused an estimated $33 million in damages, with significant damage in Fulton, Montgomery and Saratoga counties, according to a new estimate.

The preliminary damage estimates released last week have prompted all three members of the Capital Region's congressional delegation -- Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, and Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam -- the state's two U.S. senators, and some other upstate members of Congress to urge President Donald Trump to approve a major federal disaster declaration in the storm's wake.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made the formal request in a letter last week, after the estimate compiled by state officials came to more than the $29.6 million minimum for a federal disaster declaration. A declaration could allow local governments to seek reimbursements through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“There is no doubt that this damage has overwhelmed state and local governments, and that a major disaster declaration is necessary," the legislators wrote in a letter released on Monday. "Federal assistance programs will be critical, so that our communities can recover from the flood damage. We strongly support the State of New York’s request for a major disaster declaration in the areas impacted by this storm event."

The letter to Trump was authored by U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, and co-signed by other upstate members of Congress, as did New York's two U.S. senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

The storms, some of which dropped two to five inches of rain in a matter of hours, caused significant damage across upstate New York, and hit parts of the Mohawk Valley particularly hard. Residents were displaced, about 100 roads destroyed or damaged by floodwaters, and there was one death: 82-year-old Catholic priest Rev. J. Thomas Connery drowned in a flash flood while traveling to perform a service in Newport, Herkimer County. Connery was a priest in Glenville and other Capital Region communities for many years.

Cuomo's office said fooding reached record levels on the West Canada Creek north of Utica, the Sacandaga River at Hope, and on Mohawk River at Little Falls. Rescue teams aided 65 people and 14 animals during the storm.

There were also widespread power outages from high winds, with 650,000 electric customers affected, with nearly 250,000 out at the storm's peak.

Cuomo filed the formal disaster assistance request on Nov. 26.

"This year's Halloween storm caused tremendous damage to infrastructure and homes across the entire state," Cuomo said. "I am urging the federal government to validate the severity of these storm damages as soon as possible so we can begin to get the businesses and families the funding they need to repair and rebuild."

The counties requested to be included in a disaster declaration are Chautauqua, Chenango, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Oswego, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga and Warren counties, which seek to have government costs reimbursed.

Individual assistance is sought for residents of Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Oneida counties. According to Cuomo's office, state, local and federal specialists determined 18 homes were destroyed in those counties, 135 suffered major damage, 136 suffered minor damage and 110 were otherwise affected by flooding in some way.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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