National Grid and NYSEG representatives say restorations are nearly complete to the just under 500,000 Upstate New York customers affected by last week’s two-day, gale-force wind storms.
The numbers include more than 300K from National Grid and more than 178K from NYSEG, with the remaining outages in areas well northeast of Central New York, as well as in Western New York.
Locally, torrential rain, flooding and mudslides on Thursday (October 31) night caused thousands of dollars worth of damage across Cortland County to sensitive infrastructure like culverts and bridges.
In response, Legislative Chairman Kevin Whitney on Friday issued a State of Emergency Declaration for the county to ensure its eligibility for state and federal response funding. (More on the State of Emergency here)
County officials are now working with the various municipalities impacted to determine the extent of their damage and help secure outside resources once they become available.
U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to approve any major disaster declaration request made by New York State in response to last week’s storms.
They specifically referenced Cayuga, Cattaraugus, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Saratoga, and Warren Counties as the hardest-hit areas.
In addition to the disaster declaration requests, they also urged FEMA to help with Preliminary Damage Assessments done by state and local officials, should they request it.
“This Halloween storm was scary and real. Communities across Upstate New York saw severe damage, and were ravaged by heavy rain, flooding and power outages due to the tempestuous winds and severe storms, and it is absolutely critical that we get them the resources they need to recover,” said Senator Schumer. “The immense damage will total tens of millions of dollars in costs suffered. FEMA needs to mobilize its Disaster Assessment Teams and stand ready to swiftly approve any forthcoming requests from the state for assistance to help these communities recover.”
If a disaster declaration is declared, grant assistance would be made available to state and local governments, along with certain non-profits to help reimburse costs associated with emergency work and storm repairs and replacements.
The funding is available on a cost-sharing basis. FEMA generally covers 75% eligible costs.
After any severe storm, the first step in the declaration process is for the state to request a Preliminary Damage Assessment, which requests FEMA representatives to join in on the surveying of damage across storm-impacted counties.
Their analysis then determines whether costs meet the criteria for a federal disaster declaration.
Schumer and Gillibrand urged FEMA to be prepared to support any requests for aid from New York State.
“Powerful storms have caused power outages, flooding, and downed trees across Upstate New York last night. Tens of thousands of households were hit by forceful winds and rain and are now without power,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must do everything we can to help our communities recover, and New Yorkers need to be assured that the federal government will be ready to assist them. That’s why I’m calling on FEMA to quickly provide support and resources to minimize any damage to our neighborhoods, businesses, and roadways. I will continue to do everything I can to help our communities get the urgent support they need.”
More from Senator Schumer’s Office:
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the president to issue “major disaster” or “emergency” declarations before or after catastrophes occur. The decision to issue a disaster declaration is at the discretion of the president, and must be requested by the governor of the state.
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 emergency work such as debris removal and permanent repairs to infrastructure.
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.
For New York, the current PA threshold for the state is a little less than $30 million, which each county must experience $3.84 of damage per capita in FY 2020.