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FEMA Surveys Flood Damage In Two Counties

VPR/Steve Zind
Officials inspect flood damage in Underhill

Workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are touring flood damage to roads and bridges from last week’s heavy rains.

The inspections are the first step in determining if the damage qualifies for federal disaster assistance.

Wednesday, with the forecast threatening more heavy rains, FEMA representatives joined local town officials to size up the damage, navigating their convoy of vehicles around detour signs and traffic cones.

Assessing the damage involves a lot of eyeballing. In Underhill there wasn’t a tape measurer in sight as officials estimated the length and depth of the deep scoops of pavement and earth the water took from town highways and back roads.

Bill Chase, a project specialist with FEMA, scribbled notes in a palm sized pad of paper as he looked over a road partially damaged by the flooding.

“We’re doing measurements and we check the number of cubic yards, whether its asphalt or base gravel or surface gravel,” Chase explained. “ Ditch cleaning and shaping is also something we would count.  Then we put a value to it and come up with the total value of the damage.”

To qualify for federal public assistance money the damage has to reach a threshold.

Underhill road foreman Nate Sullivan doesn’t think that will be a problem.  He estimates the damage in his town at more than $2 million dollars, which is far higher than other recent floods. Sullivan estimates 95% of the damage was done to culverts. It will be his first experience applying for FEMA assistance.

“The town will foot the bill and try to get reimbursed later on,” Sullivan says. “ It’s just a matter of raising the money to get started, basically.”

FEMA assessment teams spent the day in six towns in Chittenden and Lamoille counties, where flooding damage is considered serious enough to trigger federal public assistance.