FEMA to bring help centers to Westchester, Rockland; aid sought for Putnam

Edward Omsted uses a flashlight Friday to check the water level on the wall of Churchill of Mount Kisco. The clothing store was flooded during Tropical Storm Irene.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will set up local help centers in the coming days as the Lower Hudson Valley continues to clean up from Tropical Storm Irene.

The announcement comes as the agency on Friday added Rockland to the list of counties that qualify for both public and individual federal assistance in the storm’s aftermath — joining Westchester, which was approved for the aid earlier this week.

FEMA spokesman Mike McCormick described the storm damage in the northern suburbs as “significant.”

“It’s severe,” McCormick said Friday. “It’s a huge impact on the people who were hit by this storm. We’re going to do everything possible, everything within the law, every resource we’re allowed, to provide help to people get through this.”

Still missing is a disaster designation for Putnam County, which would qualify residents and business owners there for federal aid.

“We’re being assured once they get here and look at the damage, we’ll be added to the list,” Putnam County Executive Paul Eldridge said.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is scheduled to join a FEMA regional administrator in a visit Monday to Philipstown, which suffered heavy flooding and washed-out roads.

“The decision to leave Putnam County off the list for FEMA’s help is mind-boggling,” Schumer said in a statement. “Homes, businesses, bridges and roads were pummeled by Irene, and the federal government should have the county’s back when it comes to rebuilding and recovering.”

Westchester County, state and federal officials were still reviewing heavily damaged communities, which included portions of Mount Kisco, Yonkers and the county’s Long Island Sound shoreline.

“The teams are in the field right now,” county spokeswoman Jessica Proud said.

FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of recovery costs for approved applications. The agency said those have already started to pour in.

Residents and merchants also began filing insurance claims for storm damage this week. For instance, State Farm Insurance said the number of storm-related claims statewide had risen to 11,458 for home insurance and 1,098 for auto insurance by Friday. That was up from 2,147 and 188, respectively, on Monday, the day after Irene struck the region.

Westchester County Real Estate with Debby Frank.


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