FEMA denies Hanover aid request

by Zach Swiss | 11/8/05 6:00am

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently denied the town of Hanover's request for $1.7 million to repair road damage caused by a June 10 rainstorm. The state of New Hampshire initially asked for the funds in early August.

The powerful June downpour unleashed four inches of rain in 20 minutes, flooding campus before last year's Commencement ceremony. Classified as a 500-year storm, meaning that a storm of its magnitude occurs only every 500 years, the deluge damaged local sidewalks and sewer and drainage ditches.

"On June 10th we had an inundating rainstorm, and in fact the campus was hard hit as well," Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said. "The flooding that was the result of the storm did about $1.2 million worth of damages to Hanover roads."

After the flood, the town contacted New Hampshire officials as a first step in getting funds for emergency relief efforts.

"Whenever a community in New Hampshire has a significant amount of damage from a natural event the first call is to the Bureau of Emergency Management for the state of New Hampshire," Griffin said.

Once the BEM assesses the damage, the governor is notified and urged to declare a state of emergency. The governor can then file a preliminary damage assessment to the federal government seeking relief funds. In order to determine if an allocation of federal money is warranted, FEMA sends representatives to the affected areas to survey the damage.

Although the governor's office received FEMA's refusal of funds on Oct. 7, the town of Hanover was not notified about the decision until Oct. 21 because state and local agencies were preoccupied with another state of emergency.

During the weekend of Oct. 8, flooding ravaged parts of the state, prompting New Hampshire Governor John Lynch to mobilize National Guard troops as part of the response effort.

There was, however, only "very minor" damage to Hanover, Griffin said.

"A few sewer lines were undermined. Crews fixed them the following Monday, so we came out very well in that storm," Griffin said.

As a result, Hanover will not be seeking additional relief to repair damage from that storm.

New Hampshire has since appealed FEMA's decision not to offer funds in response to the June storm, but whether FEMA will reverse its decision in light of the state's Nov. 3 appeal remains to be seen.

"If the appeal fails then we are on our own," Griffin said.

FEMA offered no reasoning for its decision not to provide Hanover with its requested funds, Griffin said.

"Typically they just issue a decline letter without a reason. We can only assume that the extent of the damage did not merit federal reimbursement," she said.

Hanover may not hear back from FEMA for another 30 to 60 days. Since the town's original request for funds, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have recently drained the resources of the federal organization, which denied the town's original request before either hurricane occurred.

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