UTICA - Federal disaster aid is coming to 18 upstate New York counties that endured severe thunderstorms and flooding on Halloween.
Rep. Anthony Brindisi, along with Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, announced approval of the state's aid request on Friday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide public assistance funding to the western, central and northern New York counties affected by the major disaster declaration.
“Our communities were devastated by the recent floods and this public assistance is a good first step to making us whole again,” Brindisi said. “These dollars will help with cleanup and rebuilding our public infrastructure, but I will keep fighting for individual assistance as well. I urged the Administration to respond quickly to our needs and I am hopeful they will release additional funds to the families that lost everything.”
The Oct. 31 storms brought at least three inches of rain and winds up to 70 mph. Catholic priest Tom Connery died after being swept away in floodwaters in Herkimer County after his car got stuck.
Click here for information on how these funds can be used.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to FEMA appears below:
Dear Acting Administrator:
We write to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expeditiously complete New York State’s Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) for both Public Assistance and Individual Assistance in 18 counties across New York State impacted by severe storms and flooding from October 31st through November 1st, 2019.
After a deadly storm crossed Upstate New York around Halloween, wet weather produced conditions that devastated a large swath of the state. The assessment requested by New York State would determine the qualifying damage for Public Assistance in Chautauqua, Chenango, Clinton, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga and Warren Counties, as well as for Individual Assistance in Erie, Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Oneida Counties. Areas in a dozen counties got at least 3 inches of rain, which is nearly a month’s worth in most Upstate communities. These downpours brought high winds and caused widespread flooding into November 1st, leading the National Weather Service to issue high wind warnings, as well as flood warnings and flash flood warnings for 27 counties in Upstate New York. Tragically, a priest in Herkimer County was caught in his vehicle during one of these flash floods and was killed. With more than 240,000 buildings and homes without power at the peak, hundreds forced to evacuate and more than 50 roads closed, New York State deployed 200 members of the National Guard and New York Utilities were estimated to have had 5,000 workers engaged in damage assessment, response, and restoration efforts. Many homes and businesses in the Mohawk Valley remain uninhabitable, forcing residents to rely local assistance for shelter and food. As communities across Upstate New York continue their recovery from this unexpected and deadly storm, we urge FEMA to expeditiously complete New York State’s PDAs in the 18 counties listed above.
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 complete the state’s Public Assistance and Individual Assistance PDAs in 18 counties across New York State.
The lawmakers’ bipartisan letter is below:
Dear President Trump:
We write in strong support of the State of New York’s request for a major disaster declaration for the widespread damage and flooding caused by heavy rains and strong sustained winds on October 31, 2019 and continued until November 1, 2019. Enclosed is a copy of the Governor’s request.
These punishing storms caused significant damage across Upstate New York, including sustained damage leading to displaced residents, uninhabitable homes, destroyed roads, and the tragic death of Father J. Thomas Connery of Glenville, NY. A joint federal, state, and local Preliminary Damage Assessment completed on November 25, 2019 revealed that damages and eligible costs exceeded $33 million.
Reflecting the statewide damage from these heavy rains and strong sustained winds, Governor Andrew Cuomo requested that you declare a major disaster on November 26, 2019, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288), including hazard mitigation statewide and Public Assistance for Chautauqua, Chenango, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Oswego, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga and Warren Counties and Individual Assistance for Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Oneida Counties.
There is no doubt that this damage has overwhelmed state and local governments, and that a major disaster declaration is necessary. Federal assistance programs will be critical, so that our communities can recover from the flood damage. We thank the Governor and the State for their work thus far and strongly support the request for a major disaster declaration in the areas impacted by this storm event.
We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with you and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver support and resources to the impacted communities.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.