WASHINGTON, DC – Monday, Congressman Pat Ryan, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to approve any request from New York State for a major disaster declaration following the severe flash flooding that has rampaged through the Hudson Valley and other communities across Upstate NY over the past 24 hours. The representatives specifically referenced Orange and Ontario Counties as being particularly battered by the heavy downpours that caused severe flooding – destroying homes, washing away roads and bridges, and tragically resulting in the loss of life.
“As response and recovery operations continue, I am pushing hard to rapidly mobilize the full power of the federal government to help everyone affected by severe flooding across the Hudson Valley. There’s no time to wait – FEMA must activate their Disaster Assessment Teams and prepare to fulfill any and all requests from New York State for additional assistance,” said Congressman Ryan. “I also want to thank our first responders, who have been working nonstop under very dangerous conditions. We are still assessing the full extent of the storm’s impacts, but tragically we have one confirmed fatality and severe flood damage across the Hudson Valley, especially in Highland Falls, West Point and Cornwall. The days and months ahead will be difficult, but we will continue working and pushing alongside our partners in local, state, and federal government to deliver relief for Hudson Valley families and begin to rebuild our community.”
“Over the past 24 hours, Orange County and communities across the Hudson Valley and Upstate have been battered by heavy downpours that caused historic levels of flooding, widespread damage, and tragically, at least one death,” said Senator Schumer. “This loss of life and extensive damage to homes, businesses, and transportation infrastructure is devastating and will likely total tens of millions of dollars in costs suffered taking months and months to repair, according to my early discussion with those on the ground. From Highland Falls and West Point to Cold Spring and Stony Point, this catastrophic flooding has wreaked havoc on the Hudson Valley and areas across Upstate NY, and with more rain expected to fall, FEMA needs to mobilize its Disaster Assessment Teams and stand ready if requested by New York State to swiftly approve any forthcoming requests from the state for assistance to help these communities recover.”
“I’m calling on FEMA to quickly distribute emergency federal funding to support New Yorkers impacted by the powerful storms and flooding in the Hudson Valley,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Thank you to our brave first responders who put their lives on the line to keep New Yorkers safe from the storm and mitigate damage and loss. I am working around the clock with my congressional colleagues to provide federal aid to help New Yorkers stay safe from flooding, forceful winds, and power outages, and help neighborhoods, businesses, and roadways recover from storm damage.”
The representatives explained that last night, real-time weather maps showed more than 4 inches of rain in many locations, and an estimated 10 inches of rain fell at West Point on Sunday, nearly the amount that typically falls over an entire summer. These historic levels of rain in the village of Highland Falls near West Point destroyed roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure making emergency response efforts difficult and stranding residents in need of immediate assistance. Rushing floodwaters caused widespread damage to houses and transportation infrastructure in parts of Orange, Rockland, Putnam, and northern Westchester counties, closing and collapsing some roadways and prompting emergency water rescue calls. In Orange County, a portion of US 6 near Fort Montgomery collapsed west of the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Route 9W and Route 218 from Cornwall to West Point were shut down due to severe flooding and damage, and Amtrak was forced to cancel its Empire Service train between New York City and Albany due to a washout on the tracks.
Additionally, Metro North – Hudson Line train service has been suspended between Croton-Harmon and Poughkeepsie due to the impact of severe weather on the tracks, with one train becoming stuck at Manitou Station in Garrision yesterday afternoon, forcing emergency responders to evacuate hundreds of terrified passengers.
New York State has now issued a State of Emergency for Orange County to enable emergency actions to save lives and mitigate property damage, and all nonemergency vehicular and pedestrian traffic from the town of Highland has been barred until at least 7:30 p.m. today. The state has also declared a State of Emergency for Ontario County, where the devastating flash floods have impacted nearly 100 homes and displaced countless residents. With more even more rain expected to fall throughout the day, Schumer, Gillibrand, and Ryan requested that FEMA actively prepare to issue a disaster declaration for the impacted communities and be prepared to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, should the state request it.
If a disaster declaration is declared, grant assistance would be made available to state and local governments, as well as certain non-profit organizations, to reimburse costs incurred for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. This funding is available on a cost-sharing basis; FEMA generally covers 75 percent of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work. After any severe storm, the first step in the declaration process is for the state to request a Preliminary Damage Assessment, during which FEMA representatives join state, local, and other officials to survey damage across the flooded counties to help determine whether the cost of the disaster meets the criteria for a federal disaster declaration. Schumer, Gillibrand, and Ryan urged FEMA to be prepared to support any requests for aid from New York State.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the president to issue “Major Disaster” or “Emergency” declarations after catastrophes occur. These declarations unlock federal aid through FEMA that is broken into two broad areas: Individual Assistance (IA) that aids families and individuals, and Public Assistance (PA) that is mainly for response and repair work on infrastructure, such as debris removal and rebuilding roads and bridges. When assessing the degree of PA damage, FEMA considers six factors: estimated cost of the assistance, localized impact, insurance coverage, hazard mitigation, recent disaster, and programs of other federal assistance. Regarding the cost, FEMA has certain thresholds that have to be met to qualify for PA specific to the state and the counties in question.