August 12, 2013
Flood aid seen as unlikely
Walmart reopens as other businesses, homes continue cleanup
Cortland County Emergency Management Coordinator Brenda DeRusso does not think Cortland County will qualify for state or federal aid to help cover the costs of repairs from recent flooding.
DeRusso said that in order to qualify for federal aid, a county must prove $170,000 in damage to infrastructure, and that the state must claim at least $27 million in damages.
“I don’t believe there’s any resource out there that will be able to offer aid to residents or businesses,” said DeRusso. “I sit here with a heavy heart and genuine empathy for folks who have suffered damage to their homes, but I just know in my hear that we’re not going to get anything for this one.”
Although there is currently no figure on the number of homes or businesses damaged by floodwaters, DeRusso estimates the damage to public property to be severe.
“I think it’s fair to say that it is at least $100,000 to $150,000 to infrastructure alone,” said DeRusso.
Tierno Automotive on Route 13 in Cortland was one of many local businesses in the swath of land near Bennie Road that was particularly hard hit by Thursday’s flash flooding.
Owner John Tierno said that he received a call about 11 p.m. on Thursday night from Sandy Conway, who lives near his garage and who experienced flooding of her own.
When Tierno received the call, he could tell that things were serious over the phone.
“She was talking really fast when she told me it was flooded down here,” said Tierno. “I was really concerned by what she told me.”
When Tierno managed to get through to his garage about 1 a.m., he saw that four of his customers’ cars were filling up with water.
“At the very least all the seats and carpeting will have to be replaced,” said Tierno, adding that none of his customers were mad. “They all understood it was a flood that no one could control.”
Although he has a garage liability policy through his insurer, Tierno is not sure whose insurance will cover what.
“I don’t know if I’m liable for an act of nature,” he said. “Water damage is always worse than it looks. It could easily be a couple of thousand to fix each of them.”
In addition to his customers’ car damage, Tierno is also struggling with personal financial loss.
A $1,000 personal computer was ruined by water that encroached into his garage, and a $4,000 vehicle diagnostic computer is likely ruined, though Tierno was doing his best to dry out the valuable piece of equipment on Saturday.
“I don’t have flood insurance,” said Tierno. “So anything I lose here will come out of my pocket.”
Even though Tierno stands to lose thousands of dollars, his focus isn’t on what he has lost, but rather on what he might lose in the future.
“My main concern is why it’s happened, and whether it’ll happen again,” said Tierno. “This garage has never flooded like this before, and it’s been around for 60, 70 years.”
Tierno listed Wal-Mart’s recent construction and deep, newly dug ditches along South Cortland Virgil Road as possible reasons for the severity of Thursday’s flooding.
“Before, the water used to spread out into the woods,” said Tierno. “But the ditches are channeling the water and spitting it out at the bottom of the hill. Maybe it would still have flooded, but maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.”
The reasons, if any, for the severity of recent flooding remain unknown, though DeRusso voiced her position that very little could have been done to prevent the flooding.
“With the amount of saturation that we had and the amount of water we got in such a short time, I doubt that there was anything we could have done ahead of time to stop it (flooding),” said DeRusso. “We will be looking at what can be done from a structural perspective to help prevent or minimize it next time.”
Bennie Road’s Walmart was also hard hit, with fast moving floodwaters trapping people in the store Thursday night before they could be evacuated by boat. Water invaded the store causing damage to equipment and merchandise. Cleanup efforts were made over the weekend and although the parking still looks to be in disarray, the majority of the store is open once again, with only the Garden Center, Home Lines and Photo sections of the store still closed.
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