FEMA Tours Flood-damaged Vt. Towns

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Flash floods tore up roads in several communities late last week (Published Saturday, Feb 1, 2014)

    (NECN: Jack Thurston, Underhill, Vt.) - North Underhill Station Road in Underhill, Vt. is one of close to 40 roads in the town that partially crumbled under a pounding assault from flash floods late last week, said Underhill road foreman Nate Sullivan.

    The damage followed around 10 inches of rain over just a few days. "There's still a lot of work to go yet," Sullivan said. "We just filled the crevices in but you have to go back and change the structures out; the culverts are still plugged and what not."
     
    Sullivan was among the local, state, and federal officials touring the community Wednesday estimating what it'll cost to get everything back to normal. "It's a matter of finding out where you're getting the funding from to try to fix some of these structures," Sullivan said.
     
    The tour was the first step in Vermont's appeal to FEMA for help fixing damage to public property. The examinations of roads, bridges, culverts, and more will take place in several towns, mainly in Chittenden and Lamoille Counties, which sustained the worst damage in the flooding. "Many of us were already here working in connection to Tropical Storm Irene, so that certainly has expedited the process," said FEMA spokesman Diego Alvarado.
     
    The state has to document at least $1-million in damages to qualify for a public assistance disaster declaration, Alvarado explained. Assuming all the washed-out gravel, ruined roads, and busted culverts do add up to the financial threshold, there is still no guarantee the state will get federal aid. Ultimately it's up to President Obama to have the final say, following a recommendation from FEMA. Vermont is only pursuing aid for public infrastructure damage, not damage to private property.
     
    Underhill Select Board chair Brad Holden took part in the damage tour, telling NECN his mountainous town of just over 3,000 is prone to fast-flowing runoff and high winds. "It seems Underhill gets the brunt of storms," he said. "We're definitely finding [new areas of damage] all the time. When you're just running around trying to get everything passable, you can't stop and examine everything. Now we're doing a more thorough look."
     
    That more thorough look could land Underhill help from Washington putting back what Mother Nature took away. The process of applying for and receiving federal disaster aid can take several weeks to several months.