Relief Crews Tally Damages

Daily News Article   —   Posted on September 1, 2011

(by Jerry Dicolo, Nathan Hodge and Emily Steel, The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com) – Lights began to flicker back on in some storm-wrecked areas of the Northeast on Tuesday, but more than a million residents across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont remained without electricity as the Herculean restoration after Hurricane Irene was just beginning.

With Irene’s brutal rain replaced by crisp temperatures and brilliant blue skies, utility repair crews, cleanup teams and state and federal relief officials crisscrossed the region to assess the damage and reassure residents that help was on its way. The storm killed at least 44 people, caused property damage that will total billions of dollars and left countless roads impassable or wiped out, especially in rural areas.

“What you see today is challenging, but you know what, we’ve faced a lot of challenges and we’ve faced worse than this,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after touring flood devastation in Adirondack villages near Lake Placid. “We’re going to build it back better.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he was moved by the “extraordinary despair” of some flood victims he visited Tuesday. Both governors have asked the Obama administration for expedited emergency aid to help cover the costs of debris removal and emergency services.

Two people climbed over the damaged entrance of Route 4 in Killington, Vt., on Tuesday, a state in which more than 200 roads remained impassable and about a dozen communities unreachable except by air.

Federal officials were working to establish a new emergency-supply base in flood-stricken Vermont, where more than 200 roads remained impassable and about a dozen communities were unreachable except by air.

In New York, about 100 dump trucks were headed to three major staging areas, said Howard Glaser, director of state emergency operations. Also being sent were excavators, bulldozers, backhoes, 12 trailer-loads of generators, 20 trailers of water and 20 trailers of ready-to-eat meals.

At Republic Airport, a regional airfield on Long Island, state and federal workers were staffing a mobilization center where 20 federal workers are assisting with distribution and logistics of federal aid.

In Connecticut, where more than 400,000 people still lacked power, some towns said they would delay the beginning of school scheduled for next week.

Lori Lenz of Deep River, Conn., arrived at John Winthrop Junior High School late Tuesday afternoon, with two sons in tow, hoping to fill a five-gallon jug with drinking water.

Like many in her town, Ms. Lenz has been without power since Sunday. Her street is littered with downed trees and snapped utility poles. Workers had begun cleaning up, but she had been told it could be three weeks until power is restored. She was hoping that didn’t turn out to be true. “If it’s early, we’ll all be happy,” she said.

In the meantime, Ms. Lenz and her family have thrown out everything from the freezer and refrigerator, which had begun to reek. She is cooking on a propane camp stove and is hauling in water from a well to flush toilets. “It’s not too bad,” she said.

In Middlesex Borough, N.J., Irene left a foot of water in Michelle Huljack’s green ranch house, and it did the same to other houses up and down her street. On Tuesday, she leaned on her windowsill and looked out onto a street piled with couches, televisions and other detritus that came from a block full of flooded houses. The street has been flooded in the past as well, and some residents were angry as they cleaned up. “If it rains two inches, we are at risk of being flooded,” Ms. Huljack said. “We are the lost town.”

On Tuesday afternoon, many in the neighborhood showed up at Borough Hall and demanded a meeting with Middlesex Mayor Robert Sherr.

Mr. Sherr said Tuesday evening that he felt for the people in the situation, but he said the residents, when buying their house, “had to know they were moving into a flood zone.”

Some of the neighbors said they hoped the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] would pay for them to relocate, help rebuild or provide funds for a stalled project to protect the town with flood gates.

In Washington, federal relief officials said the storm response was shifting from emergency operations to relieving the suffering of victims.

“The search-and-rescue phase has ended,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate following a visit Tuesday to Vermont. “They are still looking for some missing people, but their primary goal now is to be able to get back into communities that are cut off and isolated.”

Mr. Fugate added that officials planned to find ways to reach isolated communities with emergency vehicles by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

FEMA said late Tuesday afternoon that it was setting up a new staging area at Camp Johnson, in Colchester, Vt., for stockpiling supplies of food and water. In addition, the federal government dispatched a disaster medical-assistance team from the Department of Health and Human Services to lend emergency support to hospitals and health centers in the state.

Vermont’s own emergency-operations center was taken offline by flooding; FEMA said in a statement it had set up alternative communications at a previously established field office.

All told, FEMA said it has staged more than 1.1 million liters of bottled water and 927,000 meals in Massachusetts and New Jersey, in addition to more than 1.6 million meals and more than 1.6 million liters of water at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

—Jacob Gershman, Lisa Fleischer and Conor Dougherty contributed to this article.

Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. Visit the website at wsj.com.

Questions

1.  What states were hit hardest by flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene?

2.  Define infrastructure.

3.  In addition to destroyed and damaged property/homes/businesses, describe the infrastructure damaged by the massive flooding throughout several states in the Northeast.

4.  What type of aid have the Governors of New York and New Jersey asked the federal government to provide?

5.  What assistance do some residents of Middlesex Borough, NJ want FEMA to provide?

6.  Much of the flooding throughout the Northeast is historic (unusual).  However, some of the areas that flooded are located in flood zones (areas that flood easily), such as Boundbrook and Wayne, NJ.  Some people have lived in these areas for many years and are unable/unwilling to sell their home and move.

If a person chooses to live in a flood zone, and the house has been flooded out more that once, what do you think FEMA and/or state government should do:

  • give money to rebuild every time the home floods
  • offer to buy out the home to allow residents to move to a location that is not prone to flooding
  • nothing; if a person chooses to live in an area that has a high risk of flooding, they take their chances and must live with the consequences

Explain your answer.
(NOTE: When obtaining a mortgage for a house, the buyer will be told whether he/she is buying in a flood zone.  [When you purchase or refinance a home, your lender is required to obtain a Flood Hazard Determination from FEMA. This document shows the bank whether FEMA has designated the land your property is on as a Special Flood Hazard Area. Regulations require that this specific form be used for consistency and ease of understanding its contents. If the bank finds that your property falls within a Special Flood Hazard Area, it will mail you a notification of this information, which shows your flood zone designation. – from ehow.com])

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Background

HURRICANE IRENE:

  • Gale winds from Hurricane Irene affected much of the Eastern Seaboard, extending from Florida to New England and as far inland as Pennsylvania.
  • The winds, combined with soil saturation due to the extreme amounts of precipitation, uprooted countless trees and power lines along the storm’s path.
  • Roughly 7.4 million homes and businesses lost electrical power, with approximately 3.3 million still without power as of Aug. 30, three days after landfall.
  • Coastal areas suffered extensive flood damage followings its potent storm surge, with additional freshwater flooding reported in many areas.
  • The storm spawned scattered tornadoes, causing significant property damage as evidenced by destroyed homes.
  • In the northeastern region, more than ten rivers measured record flood heights…
  • Hundred-year flood conditions in rivers of at least six US states, while the Christian Science Monitor described flooding in Greene County, New York as five-hundred-year-flood conditions.
  • Throughout its path in the contiguous United States, Irene is estimated to have caused up to $7 billion in damage…
    (from wikipedia)

Resources

View photos of the flooding at online.wsj.com.

Watch a video from New Jersey News 12 at news12.com/articleDetail.jsp?articleId=291066&position=1&news_type=news.