Expensive disasters siphon FEMA funds

The storm set new records with over 20 inches of snowfall in the northeastern part of Connecticut. The original record for October was 9.5 inches, recorded in Norfolk, Conn. in 1987.
The storm set new records with over 20 inches of snowfall in the northeastern part of Connecticut. The original record for October was 9.5 inches, recorded in Norfolk, Conn. in 1987. Photo by Sharon Yin.

This weekend’s snowstorm wreaked havoc across New England, continuing a year-long series of expensive natural disasters in Connecticut.

Saturday’s snowstorm was the most costly of these weather-related disasters, according to Douglas Glowacki, a program manager for Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Though the storm did not hit New Haven nearly as hard as other cities in Connecticut, city and state officials said New Haven may receive funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its restoration efforts, beginning with a tree clearing undertaking currently underway.

Glowacki said he estimates that Connecticut could receive between $10 million and $15 million in FEMA funds for snowstorm damage.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we get more FEMA funding,” said Robert Smuts ’01, the city’s chief administrative officer. “Waterbury and towns north of us were significantly hit.” Also, Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a Sunday morning press conference that the power outages from the storm were the worst that the state had ever seen. Glowacki, said the storm caused an estimated $1.3 billion in damages throughout the Northeast. 
Though New Haven was spared the worst of the storm, 1,400 households in the city had lost power the night of the snowstorm, according to an emergency notification Mayor John DeStefano Jr. issued Saturday night.

The Halloween snowstorm is only the latest in a series of three major natural disasters to hit New Haven in the past eight months.

A February blizzard last winter dumped over 10 inches of snow and ice across the state, snapping trees and causing roofs to collapse. In September, tropical storm Irene destroyed homes along Connecticut’s coastline and cut electricity for 750,000 state residents.

“We’ve seen three natural disasters in a row during a very small amount of time,” Glowacki said. “Each one has been successively bigger than the last.”

He added that the state received $2 million in FEMA grants for the February blizzard and another $8 million after Tropical Storm Irene, much of which has yet to be distributed.

“We’ve been soliciting towns for projects and talking to those interested in applying for FEMA funds,” Glowacki said. “We’ve already met with over 500 homeowners and businesses.”

According to the DESPP, these funds are available through the Federal Hazard Mitigation and Grant Program. The HMGP provides 75 percent of the money needed to finance projects that meet FEMA criteria to mitigate damage from natural disasters for homeowners and businesses.

Towns in the United States are eligible to obtain FEMA grants if they have an approved hazard mitigation plan in place, according to the website for the DESPP. Carl Amento ’72, executive director of the Southern Central Connecticut Regional Council of Governments, said prior to this year many Connecticut municipalities had not implemented these plans. He added that SCROG applied to FEMA a year ago for planning funds to craft a regional plan for hazard mitigation.

Though New Haven already had a hazard mitigation plan of its own before SCROG received their grant, Amento added that the ultimate goal of his office is to merge the different municipal plans and create one regional plan for the area.

Amento said that his office received word “within the last few weeks” that they had been awarded a $300,000 grant to cover the 10 towns in SCROG’s jurisdiction that did not already have hazard mitigation plans.

“It turned out to be fortuitous that we got the grant because it made all of our towns eligible for FEMA relief,” Amento said.

Hazard mitigation plans typically include removing homes from highly flood-prone areas, raising the level of homes out of flood range and building sea walls.

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