August 19, 2013
Flooding costs mounting
Damage estimates from Aug. 8 flash flooding still being tallied
After Aug. 8’s flash flood raged through Cortlandville, George Mowry was left with a ruined furnace, hot water heater and electrical panel in the basement of his South Cortland-Virgil Road home.
With damage mounting into the thousands of dollars and no flood insurance, Mowry said he and his wife, Lori Mowry, are looking to 401(k)s and savings to pay for the cost of fixing their home.
The Mowrys are among many area residents assessing their homes’ damage.
The total cost of the damage to residences in Cortland County is unknown.
“It’s fair to say that a week after the fact, folks still are trying to ascertain that,” said Brenda DeRusso, county emergency management assistant coordinator.
In addition to their utilities, George Mowry said the couple lost the floor and furniture in their first floor family room. The bathroom floor on that level was also damaged, he said.
“So far we’ve had estimates on our furnace and they’ve run from $8,000 to $15,000,” Mowry said.
City firefighters responded to about 200 flooded homes and businesses the night of Aug. 8, and most of the calls were to residences, said city Fire Chief Charles Glover.
In an eight-block area of the city that suffered flooding from Broadway to Madison Street and the city line on Groton Avenue to almost Graham Avenue, DeRusso estimated that between $100,000 to $250,000 in damage was racked up.
Standing water has damaged many hot water heaters and furnaces, she said, noting that most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover damage from the flooding.
Glover did not have a damage estimate on the affected homes, as he did not know how many had to replace appliances or have electrical work done.
Not all those with flooded basements necessarily called the fire department either, as many of the houses have flooded before and the residents may not have considered the latest flooding an emergency, he said.
Like the Mowrys, it is likely flood victims will have to depend on their own resources and private loans to fix damaged homes, DeRusso said.
To receive federal disaster aid, the county must sustain more than $170,000 of damage and the state must have sustained $26.5 million of damage.
DeRusso feared that even if every home and road in the eight counties effected by the Aug. 8 storm had been damaged, the state threshold would not be met.
“But that’s not stopping me from trying,” she said, noting that she was preparing a preliminary damage assessment.
Unless state aid comes in, affected residents will be on their own, she said.
The county has not set aside any money for the flood victims, DeRusso said.
“There’s never been an emergency fund, if you will, that’s just set aside for a rainy day event,” she said, noting that she does not know of any municipalities that set aside funds for floods and other disasters.
DeRusso noted that several charities, including the Red Cross, Cortland County Community Action Program Inc., and Catholic Charities, were active helping flood victims, as were church groups.
But there may be more people who need help than help was available this time, she said.
The city Code Enforcement Office has done very few inspections of hot water heater and furnace replacements since the flood, said Shelly Knickerbocker, an administrative aide.
Residents must have a licensed contractor install the appliances, which are often kept in basements and suffer flooding, and the contractors are very busy, Knickerbocker said.
Many people who need to replace their furnaces will probably wait until the weather turns chillier, Knickerbocker said, noting that flood recovery will be a slow process.
Homeowners whose basements flooded should consider moving their utilities to the first floor or at least elevating them 2 to 3 off the basement floor, DeRusso said.
Dead vegetation left after the flood should be cleared from streams that border their properties, so that it does further plug the brooks in the next flood, she said.
“What I’ve learned from it (the flood) is we are in areas that are prone to flooding,” Glover said, “and despite some kind of miracle mitigation project, they will probably get flooded again.”
Most city flood victims had their basements pumped the day after the Thursday night flood, he said.
“People that were pumping Friday, weren’t pumping Saturday,” he said.
While the rain came down fast and hard, sparking the flash flood, basements in city homes filled up and emptied relatively slowly, Glover said, and there was not much water pressure on only one side of a basement wall that would have put foundations in danger of collapsing.
“We didn’t have any of that,” he said.
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