Gov. Hassan tours flood-struck areas
WESTMORELAND — In her meetings with residents and town officials Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Maggie Hassan said she expects federal funds to be released for public infrastructure damage caused by last week’s floods, but she doubts private property damage would reach the threshold to receive federal aid as well.
Hassan said she has requested and is waiting for a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, who started assessing flood damage Tuesday, are estimating more than $5 million in infrastructure damage in Grafton, Sullivan and Cheshire counties, said Perry Plummer, acting director of N.H. Homeland Security and Emergency Management. It is higher than state officials initially thought, he said.
“They are finding more damage and estimating it higher,” Plummer said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, FEMA officials were estimating the Grafton County damage would cost $3.4 million to repair, Sullivan was being assessed at $1 million in damages and Cheshire County at $1.4 million.
Hassan re-visited Westmoreland and Lebanon Wednesday to get updates on the progress made since the flash floods hit the areas last week.
She also stopped in Claremont where flood damage was initially underestimated.
“Their damage report indicated more damage then we perhaps believed at first,” Hassan said at the start of her flood damage tour in Westmoreland on Wednesday. “And Lebanon, I want to get back to some of the areas we looked at and find out what progress they’ve been able to make.”
She added she is encouraged to hear that residents of the affordable housing development Rivermere in Lebanon are being moved back into their apartments sooner than was expected when she toured the flood ravaged and mud-filled development last week.
In Westmoreland, Hassan spent time talking to residents and officials to understand the issues they are facing.
“I want to make sure we have a really good sense of what the problems are,” she said.
Hassan encouraged residents to report private property damage by calling 211, but said, it is unlikely the cost of the private damage will rise to the level that would release FEMA dollars.
The instances of private property damage have been severe, but scattered and isolated, she said.
If FEMA money is not released for private damage, the state’s disaster relief fund could be utilized, Hassan said.
Residents said they are pleased with the state’s swift response, but want more information about how and when roads are to be repaired. They also said they are concerned any flood repairs would not address the underlying issues that are causing the floods.
Rod Parson, whose Mount Gilbo Road and Route 12 property suffered $100,000 in damage when the brook behind the property overflowed, said it is possible the flooding occurred because the Department of Transportation has been negligent in its care of two bridge culverts.
“I’m not convinced last Tuesday’s event was a flood,” Parsons said. “I shouldn’t suffer for the negligence of another property owner.”
The narrow culvert of a now defunct railroad bridge was blocked with debris two days before the floods, resident Rob Kingsbury said.
Along with ripping up his lawn, Parsons said his water well was destroyed and pavement on Mount Gilbo Road was ripped up and went on to hit another Route 12 property, he said.
Since both culverts were cleared in the flood event the continued rain has not been an issue, he said.
“Last night it rained like heck and that brook took every bit of it,” Parsons said.
Resident Medora Hebert asked when Route 63 would reopen. “It adds three miles to everybody’s trip. I don’t know how the state is going to be able to fix it. It is carved out so deeply,” she said.
Hassan and Plummer suggested a joint meeting between DES and DOT officials to discuss issues that could be causing or contributing to flooding.
Plummer assured the residents state officials were on top of the situation.
“They are aware what’s going on. Even if you don’t see them. They are working on it,” Plummer said.