"EMERGENCY:  EVERYONE TO GET FROM STREET" (a line from the movie "The Russians Are Coming" 1966) and then there is Shakespeare...MacBeth 5.3.3.  A miss!

Pages on the "About Town" website devoted to the subject of emergency management, both here in CT and around the U.S.A. and the world:


Been to Venice yet?  Street flooding in Eastern CT - NOT JUST THE BIG EASY'S PROBLEM. Cities in history disappeared for lack of it...Mother Nature better than engineered drainage.

The Cartbridge Road bridge story...and we now declare this bridge REOPENED!  Read about it hereGoing-out-of-business-until-the-tide-goes-out sale: Main Street, Westport ("Rodeo Drive East")

parking available!  FEMA flood map; from WestportNow;  Weston double storms...number one in August, number two a Halloween Special in Fall 2011.

T A B L E    O F    C O N T E N T S

In Milford Sandy really made an impact. 

Malloy calls on state to help shoreline
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Published 7:44 pm, Thursday, March 20, 2014

EAST HAVEN -- Disappointed with what he called a slow, disjointed response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the shoreline devastation suffered in recent years, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy returned to Cosey Beach on Thursday to push for a $25 million, low-interest loan fund to help elevate and flood-proof coastal properties.

Malloy announced the program last fall and included it in his pending budget proposal to the General Assembly, with $2 million already set aside to start up the state Department of Housing's Shoreline Resiliency Fund.

But he wants lawmakers to approve it soon, before the midnight, May 7 deadline, so loans can go out this summer.

"I have frustrations with the federal government on their policies and procedures and I'm here to express those," said Malloy during the first-day-of-spring visit to the waterfront neighborhood he has returned to several times following the major storms that have marred his tenure in office and torn up communities throughout the state.

"We need to understand that, for generations, Connecticut residents have made their homes along our coast, and their businesses have flourished as well," Malloy said. "During this century, we have experienced more frequent storm surges and the number of severe storms is only expected to increase as time goes by. This is a state Shoreline Resiliency Fund. We get to write the rules, not the federal government. We must mitigate the opportunity for damage and strengthen our infrastructure so that each time a storm hits we are not ravaged by that destruction."

He said many federal income guidelines are too low to help Connecticut residents.

But with an estimated minimal cost of $100,000 to raise a home above the floodplain, only a few hundred home and business owners may take advantage of the fund, which unlike federal programs would not have income guidelines.

"I imagine that we'll need more money, but I think we have to get a program up and running and demonstrate its effectiveness before the Legislature is going to want to put a lot more money into it," Malloy said. "But let me be very clear: As opposed to what other states are doing, we're doing something. We're not going to wait around for the federal government to act."

Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein is reviewing bids from lending institutions that may participate in the program, which will award loans with interest rates below 3 percent.

Malloy said most loans will range between $100,000 and $300,000.

"This is not a handout," he said. "These are, in fact, loans. We're going to build programs that we think are sustainable, that will allow people to make the kind of progress that can and should (be made). I don't have an answer to everyone's question today on this front, as we try to confront what is climate-driven change."

Malloy said FEMA's national standards, with much lower income ceilings for eligibility, hurt Connecticut and the Northeast.

"The cost of raising something in Florida is a lot less than here," he said. "We are grossly disadvantaged by federal regulations as applies to this stuff."

In reaction to the governor's news conference, officials including Tom Ivers, block grant coordinator for the city of Milford, which has as many as 5,000 houses in flood zones, said Thursday they're taking a wait-and-see approach as they wait for FEMA to write checks 17 months after Superstorm Sandy raked the coast.

"It's kind of hard to critique a program that doesn't exist," Ivers said in a phone interview following Malloy's beachside news conference.

Ivers said that unless whole neighborhoods can be helped, blighted properties will eat away at property values. Conversely, neighborhoods will have unbalanced streetscapes if only some buildings elevate.

"Nothing has happened yet for anyone with FEMA or (federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) funds," Ivers said.

"The money you get from the federal government, you have to have damage before you can raise your house," said Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, whose district includes Cosey Beach. "Along the coast, I have people who say they want to raise their homes, but they cannot afford the money up front. If we could get these people, preventively, to raise their house, that would be good."

The state fund would be open to all property owners, whether or not they live there.

"The federal government leaves you in a hole," said Fasano, speaking in an interview after the news conference. "Also, under the federal FEMA program, you can't raise your home until you get damage."

Fasano has submitted legislation that would make it easier for shoreline property owners to erect barriers to stop harmful waves, but state environmental officials are against affecting tides.

"We don't need government money," he said. "They'll spend their own money. Just write a law that allows them to do that."


Hazard mitigation grant do-over
By: Jan Ellen Spiegel | January 31, 2014

After a massive outcry from shoreline communities, the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is being ordered to reconsider its decision to deny a particular source of federal funds for all home elevations and buyouts related to storm Sandy.

In a letter Friday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered that the committee that decided priorities for the funds – known as Hazard Mitigation Grants, provided through the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA) – reconvene and reassess its decisions.

The state received more than $81 million in funding requests, nearly five times the $16.6 million available. A committee formed to determine allocation priorities decided all the money should go to infrastructure projects in the belief that it would have a wider spread benefits.

Shoreline communities that had applied for funds for a total of 93 home elevations and nearly two dozen buyouts were outraged. Many town officials and homeowners sent letters demanding reconsideration.

Malloy’s letter also directed the state housing department to ramp up its process for home repair and elevation applications for those applying for other sources of funding.

State denies Sandy aid to coastal homes
Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 12:02 am, Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Still struggling to get back on their feet more than a year after Superstorm Sandy, which displaced many shoreline residents of Connecticut, none of them will receive funds to move their homes to higher ground under the latest round of emergency aid.

The state sent out rejection letters Monday to 94 applicants from Greenwich to East Haven, who requested a total of $18 million to elevate their homes through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The amount of funds available to the state for hazard mitigation is $16.6 million, however.

The state says the money would be better spent hardening infrastructure such as seawalls, bridges, levees and wastewater treatment plants, a decision that has baffled the leaders of a number of shoreline towns and owners of the most vulnerable homes...story in full here.

That must have been some big wave to take out this pier!  About insurance...FEMA has new standards, or soon will...they're here!  Old Greenwich (c) and example in Milford CT.

FEMA reimbursements not designed for Fairfield County homeowners - type in your data here and you'll see:

Reimbursing Fairfield County at Louisiana rates

Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 10:17 pm, Saturday, September 7, 2013

When Fairfield First Selectman Michael C. Tetreau drives along Fairfield Beach Road, he's sees that the rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy is taking too long.

"It still looks like a construction site," he said recently, complaining that residents who suffered from the tidal surge are trying to get their heads above water after the town's worst storm since the legendary hurricane of 1938.

They're still battling with insurance adjusters whose estimates are based on unrealistic, lower-priced properties in the South. Seniors on fixed incomes face the prospect of taking out new mortgages for the $90,000 price of raising their houses on concrete pilings to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency flood-safety requirements.

"It's been one big frustration," Tetreau said. "The FEMA folks have all been very nice. But there's no one person who has the answers."

Town residents have told him that after decades of paying flood-insurance premiums, when claims were filed last year, homeowners with $250,000 in coverage and contractor estimates of $235,000 were told by the out-of-state adjusters that they would award only $175,000.

"Thirty five thousand dollars in Louisiana is not enough in Fairfield County," Tetreau said. "Nobody's getting enough money."

Homeowners resorted to hiring private adjusters to defend their interests.

"That's the biggest frustration, on the FEMA side," Tetreau said. "You're paying premiums every year for $250,000 in coverage, then you should be getting $250,000. That's what people expected. That was what flood insurance was supposed to be. But we've all learned differently."

Those homeowners in the best shape already had their houses raised to FEMA flooding standards. Houses with damages more than half their value must raise them.

Tetreau said that overall, counting various types of flood insurance, Small Business Administration loans and FEMA funding, it takes a long time to navigate the aid process. Even FEMA's program to provide up to 18 months of rental housing is unrealistic, he said.

"They don't give you enough money to rent a comparable home in the Fairfield area," Tetreau said. "So people are out-of-pocket on temporary housing; facing $80,000 to $90,000 to raise their house; they're going into their savings, retirement and college funds."

Tetreau is also wary of the state's new program of federal disaster-relief funding, much of which is aimed at lower and middle-income residents.

"Our biggest concern is seniors on fixed incomes, with no mortgage, who had chosen to go without flood insurance," he said. "Now, as their homes have to be raised, there are 10-to-12 steps they have to take. The process is a lot less senior friendly."

Nearly 11 months after Sandy, the recovery underscores the vulnerability and fragility of the shoreline. "I think the ongoing struggle is how it's devastated the financial resources of the beach area as they try to rebuild," he said. "It's unbelievably stressful."

FEMA Flood Map Changes Trigger Anxiety
by Diana Stricker | Sep 3, 2013 8:10 am

A FEMA workshop to discuss new flood maps and insurance changes brought a flood a people, a flood of questions and a flood of frustration in Branford.

New FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] floodplain maps went into effect in New Haven County in July, resulting in more properties being designated as high risk zones. In addition, residents will have to deal with the effects of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 which will phase out lower premiums for many homes, including older homes that were grandfathered into the National Flood Insurance Program.

 There was standing room only this past Tuesday night as more than 175 residents from throughout the region crowded into the community room at the fire headquarters in Branford to hear the presentation, ask questions and look at online maps. Information from the workshop and links to FEMA sites are available on Branford’s website under the FEMA Flood Insurance Maps link on the left side of the home page.

Town engineer Janice Plaziak, who has been working with residents to sort out the flood map details, said she wasn’t surprised at the turnout at the workshop due to the number of phone calls she has received. Plaziak said the town’s Engineering Department does not make decisions regarding who needs flood insurance, but they can help answer questions.

Christopher Markesich, a FEMA natural hazards program specialist, said that following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA was directed to do new mapping from the Gulf Coast up to Maine. He said the new maps are much more accurate than the previous ones.

“There’s a lot more science behind these maps,” Markesich told the crowd. “We have a longer period of record” to rely upon. But his response did not allay concerns that a way of life that shoreline residents have known may soon become too costly to afford. Realtors voiced similar concerns.

Short Beach resident Rodney Hayes is fearful she will lose the preferred premium savings she has received in recent years. Her home, which is about 250 feet from the shoreline, was built by a sea captain in 1880.  “It’s still standing through all the hurricanes and we never had flooding in the basement,” she said.

She has lived in the home year-round for 15 years. This year’s flood insurance premium was $459, but if the federal subsidies are phased out, her insurance agent told her the rates could eventually climb to $3,000 a year.

“It’s another added burden,” she told the Eagle. “The taxes and insurance will probably force us out of here.”

The new regulations are also causing concern for Glen Yarbrough, who just purchased a home on East Haycock Point Road in the Pine Orchard section of town. “It affects me greatly,” she said following the FEMA presentation.

“I am trying to weigh the big decision about whether to elevate it,” said Yarbrough, who is renting a home in Branford until the newly-purchased home is renovated. “It’s exciting and it’s terrifying,” she said of her new venture.


“The most important thing is to know what your risk is,” said Bob Desaulniers, FEMA regional insurance specialist.  “You definitely need to know what zone you’re in.”

During the FEMA presentation, Desaulniers gave advice about understanding the new digital maps and the changes resulting from the new federal legislation. FEMA creates floodplain maps, also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)  for each community in a flood management program.

“Talk to your insurance agent sooner rather than later and talk about what your options are,” Desaulniers said. He said residents whose homes are designated in a high hazard flood zone for the first time “might qualify for two years of a preferred policy…a relatively inexpensive policy.”

He said if a property owner has a mortgage, their lending institution will inform them if they need to purchase a flood policy.

Desaulniers spent a good portion of the 45-minute presentation talking about changes to the grandfathering rules and special subsidies. Homes that were built before federal floodplain mapping began, or homes that were built in compliance with federal flood regulations at the time generally pay lower premiums than the risk requires.

 We have a mandate…to phase out both of these kinds of subsidies,” he said. The grandfathering rules and discounts are still in effect now but are slated to begin being phased out in late 2014, according to the

 “They’re not just going to stop the grandfathering overnight. They’re going to phase it out,” Desaulniers said. However, he also said there are proposed bills pending in Congress regarding the grandfathering status. He said FEMA won’t know specific details about phasing out until mid-2014, and that it could change if more legislation is passed. “We just don’t know how that’s going to play out,” Desaulniers said.

He said some insurance premiums are already increasing, including homes that have experienced severe repetitive losses; or policies that have lapsed.

“If you have an older home and you’ve got a basement…you don’t want that policy to lapse,” Desaulniers advised.

He said older homeowners who paid off their mortgage and want to sell in the near future should continue to keep flood insurance. He said they should take into account that buyers will need to have flood insurance if they have a mortgage and are in a high risk flood zone. “Find out what flood zone you’re in and factor that into your financial planning,” he advised homeowners.

He also said that homeowners in high risk zones may need to obtain Elevation Certificates for their property to determine the correct rate.

Desaulniers said people can benefit from “significant” insurance savings by reducing their risk by retrofitting or elevating their homes. “Adapt and try avoiding the risk. Definitely consider what is possible,” he said.

The double whammy of new flood maps and increasing insurance costs is scaring away some prospective buyers, according to local real estate agents who attended the workshop.

Residents who live in high risk flood zones will be required to purchase federal flood insurance if they have a mortgage or line of credit on their property. In addition, property owners in high risk zones will be required to get a special permit before they begin any renovation or expansion projects.

“It affects everyone from the littlest brook to the shoreline,” said Nancy Orlando of Century 21 in Branford. She said the first question prospective buyers ask is whether the home is in a flood zone. “People are shying away from beachfront, waterfront and riverfront.”

Julie Premo of Prudential Reality in Branford said realtors are concerned about the effect on sales. “The board of realtors is trying to keep up with all the information,” she said.

Residents who live in low or moderate risk floodplain areas may be eligible for a preferred risk policy at lower rates, but they are not typically required to purchase insurance even if they have a mortgage.


Some people at the regional workshop complained about the lack of clarity of the new digital maps and others questioned the accuracy.

Joan Morotto, who lives in Northford, told the Eagle that she pays high flood insurance premiums and has never been flooded in the 52 years she has lived there. Her home is near a brook, but she said there “has never had more than 3 or 4 inches of water in the brook.”

The new maps put her home in a higher risk zone. “I’ve been fighting this for 10 years. There’s no rhyme or reason why I’m paying flood insurance. Now it’s going up significantly.”

Bill Ganner told the Eagle he is concerned about the new flood elevation listed for the Lamphiers Cove area. He said the elevation went from 14 feet to 21 feet, and he thinks that must be an error. He has had a summer cottage in the area since 1946 and has never been flooded.

A Guilford man told the FEMA agents that he might be one of the lucky ones whose home is no longer included in the high risk floodplain, according to his interpretation of the new maps. However, he said he can’t convince his insurance agent that he doesn’t need a policy anymore. Like others at the workshop, he told FEMA the new digital maps lack clarity.

FEMA officials were available for one-on-one discussions of the digital maps and offered to help residents find their map designation.

(The presentation from the meeting and a copy of the handouts are available on the town’s Website in a link “FEMA Flood Maps and Flood Insurance Information” under ‘News & Events.”)

Rates for the National Flood Insurance Program are set by the government and do not vary from one insurance agent to another.  The policies pay a maximum of $250,000 for a damage claim to a residential structure, and a maximum of $100,000 for contents. Other assistance may be available if the area is declared a disaster, as with storms Irene and Sandy.

The FEMA Flood Smart Web site www.floodsmart.gov contains vast amounts of information and provides a link that gives a quick one-step estimate of flood insurance rates when the user types in an address.


F.E.M.A. architect presentation;  safe havens;  inner dors "dropped" and drills.  Risk Assessment online.  Threat level can't be reduced by architects.  There are Federal Mandates for building risks.  Physical improvements only.  "Delay" is the first thing to assure.  Case by case.  Doors to isolare the classrooms suggested!!!  Appendix F is a list of things to do to protect schools...

Anita Vashi and Nurit Harari: What do the tragedy of Sandy Hook and the destruction of Hurricane Sandy have in common?
By jfrank
Monday, May 06, 2013

What do the tragedy of Sandy Hook and the destruction of Hurricane Sandy have in common?

From a public health perspective, which measures the impact of stress on an entire community, the two Sandys have much more in common than one may realize. Both catastrophes were dubbed national disasters. Both incidents captured the nation's heart and concern, and as such, response to both has been public and swift. The critical difference, of course, is that epidemic gun violence is preventable and storms are not.

In the aftermath of such disasters, images of destroyed buildings, displaced families, inconsolable, crying children stir our inner Good Samaritan and call us to action. The president visits. Fundraisers are organized. Celebrities lend their name. Volunteers and relief organizations swing into action to alleviate the economic, physical and emotional tolls on the affected communities.

Contrast this with the response to communities where gun violence is a constant threat.

In those communities, residents lock doors and suffer in isolation. Notably absent, is the spirited "Good Samaritan." In New Haven, CT, still recovering from one of its most violent years, one woman poignantly described her experience of hearing gunshots in her apartment complex: "Liv[ing] in this war zone... I hide in our apartment and don't engage with my neighbors at all." After a New Haven toddler was shot, caught in the middle of drug war fire, a 6-year-old girl interviewed on local television said matter-of-factly that it is too unsafe to play outside because of the guns. The words of these two residents expose the wounds of a community deeply traumatized by gun violence.

It is time we acknowledge this everyday gun violence as a disaster.

While the definition of disaster, "a sudden event that causes great damage or loss of life" certainly applies, it does not get used. Though community violence differs from natural disasters, the effect of violence on communities is not unlike the trauma that ensues after a disaster. The effects of community trauma can be long lasting, and is experienced even by those not directly affected by the event.

As physicians, we see the far-ranging effects violence has on our patients, many of whom were never directly impacted by violence. Recent research has shown that chronic exposure to violence leads to prolonged activation of stress response systems in the body, called a "toxic stress response." Early "toxic stress" is associated with disruptions of the developing nervous, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems, and impairments in learning, behavior, physical health and mental health. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that the harmful effects of  "toxic stress" can last a lifetime. In places where chronic exposure to violence is the norm, entire communities are likely suffering from these adverse effects.

Research has shown that though natural disasters threaten many communities, the response to the challenges of recovery vary greatly and in ways that aren't explained by the magnitude of the catastrophe. The difference lies in the depth of a community's resilience.  To this end, building community resilience -- the sustained ability of a community to withstand and recover from adversity -- has become a key policy issue at local, state and federal levels. Both Homeland Security directives and the National Health Security Strategy recognize the importance of instilling community resilience for both our health and safety.

Communities where gun violence is an everyday occurrence need a similar preparedness and response plan with an emphasis on resilience.

While effective solutions to building community resilience are still emerging, key provisions include delivery of psychological screening and referral, outreach to vulnerable individuals, clear communication, community engagement and building effective partnerships between governmental and community-based organizations. This comprehensive, coordinated response to community violence shifts focus back to the forgotten victim of gun violence - the community.

Using lessons from disaster preparedness to address urban violence may help to build resilience so that when disasters do strike, communities are ready and equipped. Maybe then victims can stop hiding in their apartments, 6-year-olds can again play outside, and communities can start to heal.

We are not the only ones who see a link (other than "Sandy") in these two different events...
Legislators concerned about plan for using Sandy relief funds
By Neena Satija  Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Connecticut legislators today approved a state plan to use $72 million in federal Storm Sandy relief money primarily to rehabilitate housing that was damaged during the storm last November.  But many expressed reservations, referring to the plan’s lack of detail and the delay in getting funds to those who have been waiting for months.

“How soon will we be getting money on the street?” asked State Rep.  Diana Urban, D-Stonington, whose district includes many shoreline properties. “We have businesses and homeowners that have been in dire straits.”

Evonne Klein, commissioner of the newly-created Department of Housing that is in charge of the funds, said she hopes homeowners still dealing with damage from Sandy will be able to apply for assistance starting this summer. Some $30 million will go toward repairing owner-occupied homes, while $26 million will help to repair multi-family housing, including public housing.

“We are on schedule. We’re on time to get to what we need to get done on behalf of the citizens of Connecticut,” Klein said.

She is facing a tight deadline of early June to submit the final plan to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, (HUD) for approval. Only then will HUD release the $72 million.  Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey’s detailed plans for use of the Sandy relief funds –- more than $1 billion for each state – were released months ago, and HUD has approved them. Over 8,000 homeowners have already applied for housing assistance through New York State’s program for rehabilitating homes with the federal money.

“Why are we behind New York and New Jersey?” asked Urban during a hearing at the state capitol on the state’s plan.

“They didn’t have this particular process to go through,” Klein said, referring to the need for initial state legislative approval. Connecticut requires that the budget, appropriations, and other General Assembly committees sign off on the use of federal grant funds.

“I’m not aware of what New York’s and New Jersey’s formal processes are, but… we’re not behind,” she said.

Legislators also pressed Klein on details of how a home-repair program administered by the state would work.

“What’s the process for funding individual homeowners for repairs?” asked Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, who represents the coastal towns of Darien and Norwalk. “What’s the process for deciding that? What homeowners would be eligible?”

Klein said those who live in a 100- or 500-year floodplain and experienced damage due to recent storms would be eligible for assistance not only to repair their homes, but also elevate them and institute other floodproofing or windproofing measures. She could not provide estimates of how many residents might be helped by the $30 million proposed for owner-occupied homes, or whether the amount of money a particular homeowner could receive would be capped.

The money will help homeowners who did not receive enough money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other insurance, as well as those who are not insured. The plan estimates that insured homes may need $4,000 on average for repairs, while un- or under-insured homes would need $25,000 each. The plan estimates that those who need to elevate their homes would require $41,000 on average.

Mayors of coastal towns challenged those numbers last week in comments they submitted regarding the plan, and said they need more details.

Bill Finch, mayor of Bridgeport, said the data presented in the plan “seems vague.”

Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake said, "It is impossible to provide insightful and well-informed commentary on this plan without knowing where these funds will be allocated.”

Officials and residents also said in their comments that the state’s $41,000 estimate for the cost to elevate a home was unrealistic, because it assumes that FEMA money will cover the rest, bringing the total cost to around $100,000.

“These [FEMA] funds aren’t even available at this time,” wrote Tiffany Sprague, a Milford resident. “…[and] they can take upwards of a year to approve…None of us can wait that long.”

Officials say they expect more money to become available from the federal Sandy relief bill in the coming months and years. Congress appropriated $16 billion in HUD Community Development Block Grants as part of a massive disaster relief aid bill approved in January, and only some of that money has been released so far.

They plan to use that extra money to help with additional needs from homeowners, as well as bigger infrastructure projects and perhaps even a buyout program for anyone who wants to leave the waterfront altogether.

But the amount of additional money available will be limited. HUD has already allocated one-third of the $16 billion, only $72 million of which went to Connecticut.

Klein acknowledged that she has her work cut out for her in the next three weeks.

“This was something that, when I walked into the job, I didn’t know would be part of the time,” she said.

“Our number one priority is to get folks back into their homes,” she said.

Other uses for the $72 million include $4 million to help small businesses who suffered from the storm, $2.2 million for repairing public facilities, and $6 million for administration and planning.

Few details were provided on how exactly those funds would be used, though Klein said she does plan to hire more than 10 “durational employees” with disaster assistance and contracting experience to help administer them.

“I’m the only employee in the the Department of Housing so far,” she said.

Malloy’s Sandy plan worries coastal mayors
Ana Radelat and Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
May 6, 2013

Washington -- With the help of $71.8 million in federal block grants, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hopes to launch a new housing program to aid the state's Hurricane Sandy victims.

But several Connecticut cities and towns have reacted to the proposal with confusion and are concerned that Malloy's plan is based on bad information.

Mayors and housing officials from several municipalities -- including Norwalk, New Haven, Milford, Fairfield and Bridgeport -- have weighed in on Malloy's plan to spend most of the $71.8 million on grants to homeowners and owners of multifamily homes who have not received enough money from insurance companies or the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair their homes. The money is being allocated to the state by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Only second homes and the wealthy would be ineligible for the help.

But coastal city mayors say the plan is too vague for them to understand how it could help their communities and they worry that some homeowners, who are now required to elevate their homes, would be locked out of the program.

There's also concern that there isn't enough money to take care of housing needs, or to pay for other projects to fortify Connecticut's coastline from another storm.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said all of the $71.8 million should go to New Haven and Fairfield counties, "two counties where the vast majority of damage occurred."

Under the governor's plan, storm victims in Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties, and the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation, would be eligible for the aid -- with 80 percent of the funding going to Fairfield and New Haven counties. Through the state's Department of Housing, Malloy proposes to provide $30 million in grants to homeowners who did not receive enough money from FEMA or their insurance companies to repair their homes and/or who lacked federal flood insurance coverage.

Finch, in his public comments on the plan, said the data on how many homeowners need help "seems vague and those residents are more likely to be at the top of the eligible income bracket."

The allocation plan -- which would also provide several million dollars for economic development and infrastructure -- is short on detail. Administration officials say it's still in development. The plan is available here.

The plan proposes to allocate $26 million to leverage up to $105 million in private and public funds to repair apartments and other multifamily housing units damaged by Sandy.

"Based on current knowledge of affordable housing funds, it is estimated that the $147 million in unmet needs ... can be addressed using First Tranche Funds as gap financing to leverage over $105 million in federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, historic tax credits (state and federal), private financing, and/or tax-exempt bond financing from the State or the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority," the proposal says.

Yet, Finch said, "there are no assurances" that the money raised would be committed to repairing storm-damaged rental units.

Finch's comments were among dozens submitted by municipalities and individuals during a recent seven-day public comment period on the Malloy administration's proposed plan. The administration declined to make those comments public, but the comments were provided by some of the mayors' offices and through a Freedom of Information request.

Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake criticized the plan because it does not break down how the money would be spent by municipalities.

"It is impossible to provide insightful and well-informed commentary on this plan without knowing where these funds will be allocated," Blake said in his public comments.

He also said the governor's draft proposal "grossly" understates the number of homes that need to be repaired and protected from future storms.

The plan says about 5,400 homes need help with repairs and 220 of these also need to be flood-proofed.

But Blake said Milford alone has 209 homes that are in a flood zone and require to be elevated before their owners are granted building permits to repair the houses. He said the total number of those required to be elevated is more like 2,500, not 220, and there's no money in Malloy's plan to help those homeowners.

In a letter to Malloy, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, said she wanted to "amplify" Blake's concerns.

DeLauro said FEMA only provides money to acquire and demolish homes in a flood plain that are more than 50 percent damaged. "Milford is in dire need of another solution," DeLauro wrote.

"That no mitigation money is included in the draft plan is deeply concerning," DeLauro wrote.

Evonne M. Klein, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Housing, wrote to DeLauro that "mitigation only" projects were not included in the Malloy plan, but that qualified homeowners could use the money to elevate their houses.

She also reminded DeLauro that the administration was not obligated to allow the public to comment on a preliminary plan.

"There is no requirement that it be submitted for public review and comment, we published it as part of our commitment to public participation in the development of our formal (final) plan," Klein wrote.

HUD, however, requires the final plan to be subject to public comment.

Congress appropriated $16 billion in HUD Community Development Block Grants as part of a massive disaster relief aid bill approved in January. The bill required HUD to allocate one-third of the money within 60 days of approval of the bill. Most of that $5.4 billion "first tranche" of money was allocated to New York and New Jersey, which suffered the majority of the damage in Hurricane Sandy.

Connecticut's allocation of $71.8 million -- and all of the HUD grants -- are subject to a 5 percent reduction because of sequestration, or recent across-the-board, automatic spending cuts.

To receive the funds, Connecticut and the other jurisdictions must secure HUD's approval of an "action plan" to spend the money.

HUD has already approved New Jersey and New York's action plans. Connecticut lags behind.

Malloy's proposal is slated to be considered by the state legislature Tuesday, another step toward a final plan. HUD must receive the final plan at the beginning of June.

Meanwhile, mayors hope that the final plan will address their concerns.

In his public comments, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said it is "unclear" if the city's storm-damaged Washington Village housing development would be eligible for aid.

Moccia also said it's been months since Sandy hit in October, and homeowners with "unmet needs" dipped into their own pockets to repair their homes. He's concerned they may not be eligible for CDBG grant money since they no longer have "unmet needs" even if they depleted their savings to repair their homes.

"They are now one hiccup away from financial disaster," Moccia said.

The Malloy administration released its proposed plan the afternoon of April 19, a Friday.

New Haven officials said they were unaware of the plan until it was too late to provide comment in the seven-day window that was allowed.

Mark Barnhart, Fairfield's director of community and economic development, was on vacation and also unaware of the governor's plan until it was too late.

"My bad," he wrote an administration official in a letter that conveyed some concerns he hoped the administration would consider.

Barnhart said Fairfield already receives CDBG housing grant money and the city has a program that would be a good alternative to the governor's plan.

"While I appreciate the need for the State to efficiently distribute and timely expend these funds as well as to ensure compliance with all applicable HUD requirements, use of these existing local programs should merit further consideration," he wrote.

In March, HUD made a second allocation of CDBG grants, in the total amount of $500 million, to Missouri, Alabama, Texas and other states that have suffered recent disasters unrelated to Sandy.

That leaves about $10 billion of undistributed CDBG grant money. HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said the agency does not know how that money will be allocated or when.

He did say HUD would use the most up-to-date information on the unmet needs in each state to distribute the rest of the money.

In her letter to DeLauro, Klein said, "we anticipate an additional allocation of federal funding under (the CDBG program) to be targeted specifically to infrastructure and mitigation-only projects some time later this year."

Going Up a Few Feet, and Hoping to Avoid a Storm’s Path
April 15, 2013

Jim and Leah Hogan are doing some work on their house. The ground floor is stripped down to the bones, the lawn is all dug up, and sunlight is streaming inside from unusual places, like up through gaps in the floorboard and right in through the fireplace.

Their home, hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, was nestled onto a bed of steel beams about two weeks ago and jacked up eight feet into the air, where it rests today on neatly stacked piles of thick wooden beams. The hope is that the next time water comes rushing through their neighborhood, in Rowayton, Conn., this house, at its new height, will fare better.

“It looks maniacal, and it looks worse in person,” said Ms. Hogan, who described the wooden supports as resembling a monster-size Jenga set. “Though when I got up there and saw my views,” she continued, “it was really my first pleasant surprise of this whole journey.”

Up and down waterfront communities that were raked over by Hurricane Sandy, homeowners who want to stay put are hoping that they can still get out of the way of the next storm by elevating their houses out of the water’s reach. Now that the dust has settled and some insurance checks have gone out, the work of hoisting entire homes up into the air, with stairs and cabinets and even some furniture still inside, has begun.

“We don’t want to move and we don’t want to get flooded again, so that made it pretty clear what we had to do,” Mr. Hogan said. “What was left was to go up.”

In the coming years, tens of thousands of homeowners in the tristate area can expect to choose between elevating their homes, like the Hogans, or paying higher insurance rates for keeping it low.

To elevate a house, workers generally begin by punching holes in the foundation and threading long steel beams through them to support the weight of the house from underneath. Then they raise it up with hydraulic jacking machines, very slowly, pausing every few inches to add wooden supports, called cribbing.

Once it is up high, there it stays, suspended as the foundation is built up to meet it.

Dayna Sproule, who lives just a few blocks from the beach in Fairfield, Conn., said she was standing in her living room shortly after the storm surrounded by soaked wreckage when a carpenter told her that her house could go higher. She did not believe it.

“I thought at first he was kidding; I didn’t think you could actually do it,” she said. “It’s got a big footprint. It’s a house!”

But up it went just a few weeks ago, shingled and elegant and suspended against the sky, dangling about seven feet above the two stone steps that used to lead to the front door.

“It’s sort of upsetting seeing your house like that,” Ms. Sproule said.

Ken Miccio, a New York City firefighter who stood on the beach last week and watched as half a dozen men stood underneath his house in Roxbury, Queens, jacking it up, said it was hard for him to look.

“I wouldn’t want to be under there,” Mr. Miccio said. “And I’m a fireman! I’ve been in some crazy spaces.”

As one might imagine, the process of getting a house safely off the ground without destroying it is not cheap. Government officials and industry professionals estimate it most often costs from $10,000 to $100,000, and perhaps even more, to lift a house, depending on its size, weight and how it was built — this range does not include the cost of a new foundation, a new set of stairs or any other expenses one might encounter down that rabbit hole.

An analysis by New York City estimates it would cost about $10 billion to raise every residential structure in the city’s current advisory flood maps. (FEMA is expected to release new flood maps for the city by June, as part of a process started long before the storm. Maps made up of conservative estimates were released earlier this year to help people eager to rebuild begin their planning.)

There are government loan programs and grants available to help pay for the process, and owners of substantially damaged homes may qualify for up to a $30,000 payout from the National Flood Insurance Program to help bring the house up to current standards. But in general, much of the burden will fall on homeowners, and many people will not be able to afford it.

Nonetheless, many homes will be required to go up.

If a home is considered substantially damaged by the storm — an official distinction that means the cost to repair it to its pre-storm condition will be at least 50 percent of the value of the house itself, not including the land — then it must be raised to meet the current flood safety standard. That required height, which varies from one stretch of land to next, is determined by FEMA and enforced by local communities. States and local governments can also require homeowners to go higher.

Most homes were not so badly damaged by the hurricane, and thus are not required to go higher. But this will not protect their owners from higher insurance costs if they leave a house below what FEMA considers a safe distance from the ground.

New York City does not have an official count of how many homes have been elevated so far, but companies like Wolfe House and Building Movers, which raised the Hogans’ house, and Expert House Movers, say they have much more business than is customary for this time of year, even twice as much, and business is only expected to increase in the coming months.

In addition to challenges of engineering and cost, there are aesthetic concerns to address as well when a house is raised. What was meant to be the first floor is suddenly 5 or 10 feet in the air, and sometimes, that looks terrible.

“A lot of people’s homes are not going to be very pretty when they’re done,” said Peter Cummings, who along with his partner Jose-Miguel Albaine, has designed the Hogans’ revamped house, and done so to look as if that height had been intended all along, he said.

While their house gets put back together, Mr. and Ms. Hogan; their two sons, Jamie and Jack; and their unfortunately named 4-year-old Labrador retriever, Stormy, have gotten to stay in their same idyllic little neighborhood, the Pine Point Association, which is sandwiched between a creek and a private beach on the Long Island Sound. Their neighbor is letting them stay for free while he tries to sell the house, which is listed with Halstead Property for $1.695 million.

And right across the street from their own home, another house, 1 Captains Walk, just came on the market. It is also listed with Halstead Property, with an asking price of $4.395 million. The house, which is only about 12 years old, is built higher up than its older neighbors, and during Hurricane Sandy, not a drop of water got inside.

“That’s a huge factor,” said Nancy Rawls Dauk, the real estate broker selling the property. “It makes it much more valuable.”

The height of the house was factored into its asking price, she continued. It pushed it up substantially.

FEMA to Connecticut: We're going to be here for a while
Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
November 27, 2012

Nearly a month after Superstorm Sandy hit the region, thousands of Connecticut residents are still in need of help, federal and state officials said Tuesday.  Speaking at a federally designated Disaster Recovery Center in downtown Bridgeport, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate promised, "We will not stop until everyone's life is back to normal."

More than 300 FEMA staff members are on the ground in Connecticut, Fugate said: "How long is FEMA going to be here? We're going to be here a while...we're talking years."

Close to 10,000 residents have asked for help from the federal government in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and about $8.5 million has been distributed to them.  That does not include claims made by larger businesses or by local governments and government agencies.  Gov. Dannel Malloy said he expects that number to continue to grow. About 800 applications for assistance were made just in the past eight days.

"We will continue to work. People will see recovery," Malloy said.

The state is still not ready to release a dollar-figure damage assessment. Malloy said he expected it would be far less than those in New York and New Jersey, since the impact of the storm was less severe in Connecticut, and also because Connecticut residents tend to be more insured than those in neighboring states.

Still, "this is our third bite of the apple in a very short period of time," Malloy said, referring to Sandy as well as Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm, which hit the state hard last fall. The number of requests for help after Sandy so far is higher than the number from last year's two storms combined.

While FEMA does not keep track of the number of people who may have been displaced temporarily or permanently from their homes, evidence suggests there is a contingent of such people in Connecticut. Nearly all of those asking for help from FEMA applied for "housing assistance," which includes rental assistance. But those needing just home repairs are also included in that number.

In Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch said the suffering of residents is still acute, especially in poor neighborhoods where people went several days without power and lost valuable foodstuffs.

"I think we neglected the poor people and the elderly people," he said. "...I want to see a greater sensitivity to those in need."

Finch had sharply criticized United Illuminating for what he called a slow response to restoring power to some areas of Bridgeport. In some cases, he said, schools could have opened earlier had utilities done the job quicker.  On Tuesday, he called for utilities to update their response plans to include factors such as poverty in their decisions to prioritize certain areas for power restoration.

Responding to Finch's comments, Malloy said that Finch "has made that argument forcefully ... we'll look at the points the mayor has made."

While the total bill that individuals, businesses and local governments ultimately hand to FEMA will be hefty, Fugate said he expects there to be enough money for the ongoing relief efforts. In the long term, though, "we will need additional funds," he said.

Those funds would include grants for communities to rebuild -- and to rethink that process.

Malloy said the state is reviewing its infrastructure along the coastline and taking a look at whether building codes need to be updated. "We lost more roofs than we should have," he said. He later added, "we probably should get away from multiple rebuild of properties," referring to the fact that many property owners who suffered damage to their homes were still making repairs from last year's storms.

Those changes will take time -- but time is limited, Malloy warned. Had Sandy not changed her course and sped up, hitting Connecticut less hard than expected, the consequences could have been even more dire. Malloy said the buildup in the Long Island Sound area would have caused damage to downtown Bridgeport, Greenwich, Stamford and Fairfield on the same scale as the damage incurred in New York City.

"We dodged a bullet," he said.

Storm-Battered Shoreline Gets A Lift, One House At A Time
The Hartford Courant
BY DENISE BUFFA, dbuffa@courant.com
4:46 PM EDT, August 3, 2013


Clay Markham waved to a neighbor on East Broadway in Milford one sweltering day in July.

"You look exhausted. You've been lifting those houses all by yourself?'' the elderly man quipped.

Yes, Markham lifts houses for a living. But not with his bare hands, of course.

He uses machinery and men to raise the structures high in the air so they can be put down on new foundations -- like posts, pilings or piers -- that will prevent damage when the Long Island Sound swells from super storms.

Business has been booming for Markham, who runs High Caliber Contractor LLC out of Milford, since tropical storm Irene and storm Sandy hit Connecticut's coastline in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The storms rocked some houses along the shoreline off their foundations and filled others with water.

"I've always stayed busy over the past 20 years lifting and moving houses, but it's extremely busy right now along the shorefront areas," Markham said. "I think I was doing 30 a year before Irene...Now, we're doing two a week, at least."

That's triple the business.

The complexion of Connecticut's coastline is changing. While some homeowners are choosing to lift their homes in flood hazard zones to prevent future flood damage, others are being forced to lift them. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says if the cost of improvements or the cost to repair damage amounts to more than 50 percent of the market value of a building, it must be brought up to current floodplain management standards.

In Fairfield, 30 homes have been raised and 30 more will probably be lifted as well. In Westport, nearly 30 houses are being lifted. And in Old Saybrook, 10 houses are either in the process of being jacked up or will be jacked. All this according to town officials.

Tom Ivers of the Milford Department of Community Development estimated 4,000 to 5,000 houses in that city, which boasts 17 miles of coastline, may have to, "by code," be elevated at some point in the future.

"It certainly does provide some peace of mind," Ivers said.

Markham -- who says he's done work in Madison, Old Greenwich, Westport and East Haven -- isn't the only house lifter out there. The work is so plentiful that contractors have come to Connecticut from other states, including Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

"You've got everybody and their brothers coming in from all over the states to do this," said another Milford contractor, Hilding Nelson of Historical Preservations, House Lifters.

Still, Markham - who dons a white hard hat and glasses -- seems to have his share of the business that he loves.

"At any given time, I have 10 to 15 houses on equipment," he said.

Once a general contractor, Markham decided to specialize in moving structures because he found it more rewarding.

"I wanted something that was a challenge to do. It was a challenge to grow my own business -- and there wasn't a lot of people doing it," he said. "It's a challenge to get the jobs. The jobs are a challenge to do.

Markham, a 51-year-old married father of two, lives on the water in Milford's Silver Sands area, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by Sandy. And he's lifting many of his neighbors' houses using "unified hydraulic jacking systems," which have a central control for monitoring each hydraulic jacks performance.

The cost of a lift could be anywhere from $12,000 to $30,000 -- and that doesn't include building a foundation, which could bring the bill to $75,000 to $100,000.

"If you're going to bring it up to flood code, it's a lot of money," Markham said.

The house lifter, who stands 5-foot-2, stood under a Cooper Avenue house he had just lifted. He was dwarfed by the structure. But while he may be small in stature, Markham has a big heart by at least one account.

"Clay is a great guy -- and he's been so helpful during this whole process," said Tim McFadden, who owns the two-story, 1,800-square-foot house at 10 Cooper Ave. that towered over Markham. "He's kind of like helping all the neighbors out there, not killing on the price...He knows what we're going through."

Sandy skirted his home, McFadden said, but Irene "wiped out" the whole first floor. He decided to lift it rather than leave it.

While other structural movers tried to soak him, estimating it would cost at least $25,000 to lift the family homestead -- where he and his wife reared their three children -- McFadden said Markham charged him less than $20,000.

That's a big deal to a homeowner who is suddenly facing a $75,000 to $100,000 emergency project, including the costs of an architect and soil and structural engineers plus building a new foundation. McFadden is hoping for some government aid.

Markham said he enjoys helping others.

"I don't want it to sound like I'm out there doing it for free," he said. "But I definitely like giving people advice on what they're doing and which way they should go with their house."

Despite the help that may be available, some property owners are bailing out. Still, others are buying in.

Markham lifted the once flooded 915-square-foot bungalow at 15 Tremont St., which sold -- as is -- for $44,000 in January to real estate investor Heiko Bosler.

"I took it off a friend's hands who did not want to deal with it," Bosler, a Milford resident, said after climbing down a ladder from a door of the raised structure to greet Markham another recent day.

Bosler says he's investing at least $110,000 -- including the cost for Markham to lift it -- plus his own labor, which he estimates is worth $20,000 to $30,000. He hopes to get at least $230,000 for the two-bedroom, one bathroom ranch when it's done.

"The goal is 50 grand (in profit)," said Bosler, who conceded it's difficult to predict whether he'll be able to cash in on the lift because there are no comparable houses on the market.

Markham recalls getting into house-lifting after storm Beth struck the Northeast in 1992, bringing record high tides and snow. Afterward, he bought a few properties in the Silver Sands area -- lifting a couple of them -- and then selling them.

On average, he lifts houses 7 to 10 feet. But he says he once lifted a house 17 feet, so a first floor could be built under it. Among the highest elevations he's done is a Clinton house he says he raised 19.5 feet, placing it on pilings.

Typically, the homes are temporarily hoisted 2 to 3 feet higher than their final perch -- the new foundation -- to which they must be lowered later.

Scott DeVico, a spokesman for the state Department for Emergency Services and Public Protection, said, "I think Irene and Sandy have opened up a lot of people's eyes in the state that hurricanes, tropical storms, they do affect us here in Connecticut and, when they do, they can have a devastating effect on our shoreline communities."

One of the results: lifting houses.

"We're either raising them or razing them -- raising with an 's' or razing with a 'z'," Westport building official Steve Smith said.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant

As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why
November 18, 2012

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Even in the off season, the pastel beach houses lining a skinny strip of sand here are a testament to the good life.  They are also a monument to the generosity of the federal government.

The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since 1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand onto the roads.  Yet time and again, checks from Washington have allowed the town to put itself back together.

Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.

Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.

“We’re Americans, damn it,” said Robert S. Young, a North Carolina geologist who has studied the way communities like Dauphin Island respond to storms. “Retreat is a dirty word.”

This island community of roughly 1,300 year-round residents has become a symbol of that reflexive policy.  Like many other beachfront towns, Dauphin Island has benefited from the Stafford Act, a federal law that taps the United States Treasury for 75 percent or more of the cost of fixing storm-damaged infrastructure, like roads and utilities.  At least $80 million, adjusted for inflation, has gone into patching up this one island since 1979 — more than $60,000 for every permanent resident. That does not include payments of $72 million to homeowners from the highly subsidized federal flood insurance program.

Lately, scientists, budget-conscious lawmakers and advocacy groups across the political spectrum have argued that these subsidies waste money, put lives at risk and make no sense in an era of changing climate and rising seas.  Some of them contend that reconstruction money should be tightly coupled with requirements that coastal communities begin reducing their vulnerability in the short run and that towns along shorelines facing the largest risks make plans for withdrawal over the long term.

“The best thing that could possibly come out of Sandy is if the political establishment was willing to say, ‘Let’s have a conversation about how we do this differently the next time,’ ” said Dr. Young, a coastal geologist who directs the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University. “We need to identify those areas — in advance — that it no longer makes sense to rebuild.”

A coalition in Washington called SmarterSafer.org, made up of environmentalists, libertarians and budget watchdogs, contends that the subsidies have essentially become a destructive, unaffordable entitlement.

“We simply can’t go on subsidizing enormous numbers of people to live in areas that are prone to huge natural disasters,” said Eli Lehrer, the president of the conservative R Street Institute, part of the coalition.

This argument might be gaining some traction. Earlier this year, Congress passed changes to the federal flood insurance program that are supposed to raise historically low premiums and reduce homeowner incentives for rebuilding in the most hazardous areas.  Less widely known about than flood insurance are the subsidies from the Stafford Act, the federal law governing the response to emergencies like hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes. It kicks in when the president declares a federal disaster that exceeds the response capacity of state and local governments.

Experts say the law is at least as important as the flood program in motivating reconstruction after storms. In the same way flood insurance shields families from the financial consequences of rebuilding in risky areas, the Stafford Act shields local and state governments from the full implications of their decisions on land use.  Under the law, the federal government committed more than $80 billion to disaster recovery from 2004 to 2011, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. While billions of dollars went to relieve immediate suffering, including cash payments to families left homeless by storms, nearly half of the money was spent helping state and local governments clean and restore damaged areas and rebuild infrastructure.

At times, local governments have tried to use the money to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters, but they complain that they often run into bureaucratic roadblocks with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  For instance, after flooding from Hurricane Irene washed out many culverts in Vermont last year, many towns built bigger culverts to handle future floods. But they are still fighting with the agency over reimbursement.

W. Craig Fugate, the agency’s administrator, acknowledged in an interview that “as a nation, we have not yet figured out” how to use federal incentives to improve resiliency and discourage excessive risks.

If private property owners want to assume the risks, “that’s one thing,” he said. “But if we find that we as taxpayers are assuming that risk without benefit, then we need to rethink that.”

Dauphin Island is a case study in the way the federal subsidies have enabled repetitive risk taking. Orrin H. Pilkey, an emeritus professor at Duke University who is renowned for his research in costal zones, described the situation here as a “scandal.”

The island, four miles off the Alabama coast, was for centuries the site of a small fishing and farming village reachable only by boat. But in the 1950s, the Chamber of Commerce in nearby Mobile decided to link it to the mainland by bridge and sell lots for vacation homes.  Then Hurricane Frederic struck in 1979, ravaging the island and destroying the bridge.

President Jimmy Carter flew over to inspect the damage. Rex Rainer, the Alabama highway director at the time, recalled several years later that the president “told us to build everything back just like it was and send him the bill.”

The era of taxpayer largess toward Dauphin Island had begun. With $33 million of federal money, local leaders built a fancier, higher bridge that encouraged more development in the 1980s. Much of that construction occurred on the island’s western end, a long, narrow sand bar sitting only a few feet above the Gulf of Mexico.

“You can always look back and say, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have done that,’ ” said Mayor Jeff Collier, who noted that many of the decisions were made before he took office over a decade ago. “But we can’t turn the clock back.”

In the 1990s, big storms started hitting the island roughly every three years. Two back-to-back hurricanes, Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005, destroyed more than 300 homes. Most have not been rebuilt, but scores have been. Some beachfront building lots are now inundated by the Gulf of Mexico.  The bulk of the town’s reconstruction money has been spent on the western end. That means many of the prime beneficiaries have not been permanent residents, but rather vacation homeowners from places like New Orleans and Atlanta.

Since 1988, federal figures show, Dauphin Island property owners have paid only $9.3 million in premiums to the national flood insurance program, but they have received $72.2 million in payments for their damaged homes. Figures from a federal contractor show that the average island resident pays less than $700 a year for flood insurance, though a few do pay as much as $3,000.

On Dauphin Island and in many other beachfront communities, the federal subsidies have helped people replace small beach shacks with larger, more valuable homes. That is a main reason the nation’s costs of storm recovery are roughly doubling every decade, even after adjusting for inflation.  Dauphin Island has tried to limit its risk, imposing stricter building codes that go beyond federal requirements. New houses now must be built high on pilings to survive storm surges.

Local residents argue that federal help is warranted because their erosion problems have been worsened by government dredging in the nearby Mobile Ship Channel, which some scientists agree has helped starve the Dauphin Island beaches of sand. And residents say that simply letting the island’s western end wash away would leave the mainland and its marshes, rich with seafood, more exposed to storms.

People here have formed strong emotional attachments to their island. “There’s a lot of wildlife and a lot of bird life, and it’s just a great place to relax,” said Jay Minus, a lawyer in Mobile who owns two homes on the western end. “You can sit on the porch and watch the dolphins swim past your house.”

Just this summer, Hurricane Isaac dealt the island a moderate blow, leaving most homes unscathed but managing to do $3 million worth of damage to public infrastructure. On a recent day, bulldozers crawled around the island, scooping up tons of sand to replenish the beach. As in the past, the town will most likely pay only 15 percent of the repair costs.  Coastal geologists describe western Dauphin Island as a textbook example of a place that should never have been developed. Scientists say that climate change will most likely speed up the rise of sea levels in the coming decades and that many more coastal communities will face repetitive risks.

With little pressure coming from Washington or state governments, only a handful of communities have started thinking seriously about a new approach.

“We need a plan,” Dr. Young said.

Given the political realities, however, it is by no means clear how to move forward. In some flood plains, public money has been used to buy out vulnerable property owners. Entire towns were moved out of the Mississippi River flood plain in the 1990s, for instance, saving money over the long haul.

Several oceanfront communities have resisted such proposals, though one, in Texas, consented to a buyout plan after being badly damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008. The federal government, despite its willingness to spend tens of billions of dollars repairing communities after storms, has not put up the kind of buyout money that might convince more owners to walk away.

Because buyout proposals often take years to put together, several experts suggested that they be drawn up in advance with maps of properties targeted for acquisition. Then, if those homes are damaged, state or local leaders could move swiftly after a storm, offering the owners voluntary buyouts before they make up their minds to rebuild.

Mr. Collier, the mayor, has long heard the argument that a rising sea will ultimately force a retreat from Dauphin Island and similar places.

“I’m not going to say that’s wrong,” he said. “But somebody needs to tell me, how are we going to get there?”

Play that number - close to the reported budget deficit($365 million)
Sandy storm damage tops $360M in state
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 3:09 p.m., Wednesday, November 14, 2012

HARTFORD -- Damage to Connecticut business and homes from last month's superstorm has topped at least $360 million, Hearst Connecticut Newspapers has learned.

In an interview this afternoon, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expects the preliminary applications for assistance to keep growing and that he looks forward to working with the governors of New York and New Jersey in seeking additional funding for major infrastructure projects.

"These things will be coming in for a much-longer period of time," said Malloy in the Capitol, stressing that the damage will surpass last year's August and October storms.

"It clearly raises some other serious questions based on the tidal surge that we experienced, which was a record from New Haven down through Greenwich," Malloy said. "I think but for the grace of God, we ducked what could have been a much worse outcome."

He said that "hardening" roads, shoreline water protection, transportation systems and other infrastructure considerations are all part of the longer-term effects of the storm.

"This is a damage number, not a hardening-our-infrastructure number and those are two completely different things," Malloy said. Three breakwaters in Stonington were also damaged in the October 29 storm.

UI says cost of restoring power after Sandy may be up to $40 million
By The Associated Press
New Haven Register
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NEW HAVEN — United Illuminating's parent company says the cost to restore power following Superstorm Sandy is between $35 million and $40 million, which it will seek from ratepayers in a request to Connecticut regulators.

UIL Holdings Corp. outlined the cost estimates in a federal regulatory filing previewing a presentation by James P. Torgerson, president and chief executive, at an industry conference in Phoenix on Tuesday.

UIL said about 40 percent of the costs were for damaged poles, wires and other equipment along Connecticut's battered shoreline. The remainder was for salaries, fuel for trucks and other operating expenses related to restoring power.  The cost is higher than for all storms between 2009 and June 30, which UI said totaled $26.1 million.

The state's largest utility, Connecticut Light & Power, has not publicly estimated storm costs.

Meanwhile, federal officials say more than 7,000 property owners in Connecticut have applied for help to recover from Superstorm Sandy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded about $4 million for state residents forced out of their homes by the storm that pounded the Northeast on Oct. 29.

The Connecticut Post reports (http://bit.ly/UEmosM ) that FEMA spokeswoman Rita Egan said Monday agency workers have received applications from 7,271 property owners statewide. Most applications were from residents in hard-hit shoreline towns in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

Egan says about 3,466 applicants have asked for home inspections and about 2,000 have been completed by the agency's field workers.

Of the nearly $4 million in FEMA awards approved by Monday, all but about $200,000 were for housing assistance.

The remainder was for personal property loss.

Flood Insurance, Already Fragile, Faces New Stress
November 12, 2012

WASHINGTON — The federal government’s flood insurance program, which fell $18 billion into debt after Hurricane Katrina, is once again at risk of running out of money as the daunting reconstruction from Hurricane Sandy gets under way.

Early estimates suggest that Hurricane Sandy will rank as the nation’s second-worst storm for claims paid out by the National Flood Insurance Program. With 115,000 new claims submitted and thousands more being filed each day, the cost could reach $7 billion at a time when the program is allowed, by law, to add only an additional $3 billion to its onerous debt.

Congress, just this summer, overhauled the flawed program by allowing large increases in premiums paid by vacation home owners and those repeatedly hit by floods. But critics say taxpayer money should not be used to bail it out again — essentially subsidizing the rebuilding of homes in risky areas — without Congress’ mandating even more radical changes.

“We are now just throwing money to support something that is going to end up creating more victims and costing more money in the future,” Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, said of the program, which insures 5.7 million homes nationwide near coasts or flood-prone rivers.

Even with the new rules, critics argue, it will be many years, if ever, before many homeowners are required to pay premiums that accurately reflect the market cost of the coverage. Some communities have long resisted imposing more appropriate building codes to prevent damage, putting the program at further risk of devastating losses when storms like Hurricane Sandy hit. And despite some efforts in recent years, many of the flood maps the program relies on are out of date — which can have expensive, and even deadly, consequences in this era of rising sea levels if homeowners are not cognizant of the risks they face.

The program’s giant debt makes matters worse because simply covering the interest owed the Treasury consumes from $90 million to $750 million a year, depending on interest rates. This means it is much harder to build reserves for future catastrophes.

But others on Capitol Hill argue that the changes adopted in July are an important first step, and that Congress must give the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the program, a chance to apply them before any additional changes are considered.

Already, 44 members of the House of Representatives have called for Congress to appropriate whatever money is needed to help victims recover from Hurricane Sandy, and aides on Capitol Hill say that under such extreme losses, they expect lawmakers will do what they have to do to keep the program solvent — even amid a federal budget crisis.

“It is a program we require people to participate in, so we have to make sure it is adequately funded to handle claims,” said Representative Timothy H. Bishop, Democrat of New York, whose district in Long Island has more than 100 miles of coastline. “You can’t say: ‘Awfully sorry. Hope this works out for you.’ ”

The federal government’s flood insurance program, established in 1968, is one of the world’s largest. The insurance is mandatory for homeowners with a federally backed mortgage if they live in an area subject to flooding at least once every 100 years. The average annual flood insurance premium is about $615, but for homeowners in areas at higher risk of flooding, an annual policy can cost from $1,200 to $3,000, according to Steve Harty, president of National Flood Services, a claims-processing company, depending on the level of coverage.

The federal program collects about $3.5 billion in annual premiums. But in four of the past eight years, claims will have eclipsed premiums, most glaringly in 2005 — the year of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma — when claims totaled $17.7 billion. Private insurance companies have long avoided offering flood insurance to homeowners.

“It’s like rat poison to them,” said Tony Bullock, an insurance industry lobbyist, explaining how the risk outweighs the benefit for private insurers. “You need the federal backstop.”

But the program is still a moneymaker for the private insurance industry. Even though these companies bear none of the risk, they take, on average, $1 billion a year of the premiums the government collects, as compensation for help in selling and servicing the policies. Federal auditors argue the payments are excessive.

FEMA officials declined to address whether changes beyond the already passed legislation are needed to strengthen the program.

“These reforms are being implemented,” the agency said in a written statement. “Right now, we’re focused on helping survivors.”

More than one million property owners who live in homes at least four decades old also have historically paid only about 40 percent of the estimated true cost of the coverage the government provides — in large part because of lobbying by the real estate industry, mortgage brokers, homeowners associations and other groups to keep federal authorities from charging more.

Perhaps the most troubling problem, program officials acknowledge, is that only a tiny share of enrolled properties accounts for a giant share of the overall claims, as the properties are repeatedly flooded and rebuilt in low coastal regions and in hurricane flight paths.

One Biloxi, Miss., property valued at $183,000 flooded 15 times over a decade, costing the program $1.47 million, according to federal data provided by the agency to a member of Congress. Another in Humble, Tex., has resulted in over $2 million in flood payouts even though it was worth just $116,000.

An analysis of two decades of claims by the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania shows that certain states, like Texas, which has the second-largest number of policies, pay much less in insurance premiums than the homeowners there collect in damage claims, evidence of the inherent inequity in the national program.

The problem of repetitive claims is much less prevalent in coastal New York and New Jersey, where FEMA estimates Hurricane Sandy flooded 100,000 insured homes.

But homeowners in those two states have fought measures that would reduce storm damage. Barrier island communities in the Northeast, for example, have resisted overtures from the Army Corps of Engineers to build sand dunes as a natural flood barrier, arguing that the dunes would block ocean views or harm the local tourism industry.

Other communities, like Tuckerton, N.J., have failed to take steps recommended by FEMA to better protect homes after flooding through a program that pushes owners to elevate new homes above minimum required heights or to move flood-prone buildings.

Hurricane Sandy damaged more than 300 of the 660 houses in Tuckerton’s beach area, including 22 that were washed away, according to Phil Reed, the town building inspector.

Fifteen years ago, Don Horneff, 74, had his Tuckerton house raised on pilings nine feet above ground level. As a result, he said, Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters ran only through his basement.

That is the kind of protective measure that federal officials want mandated into all new or rebuilt homes in flood zones.

Last week, piles of mattresses, fencing, chairs, appliances and other debris sat outside many of the homes on Mr. Horneff’s street — and a backhoe worked to clear the mess. “All around me, the homes that were lower, most of them will have to be demolished,” he said, surveying his neighborhood. “It’s very sad. They have lost everything.”

The pending costs for Hurricane Sandy would have been even higher if a greater share of residents along the East Coast had signed up for the insurance, which is voluntary outside the 100-year-flood zones. There would also have been more premium dollars, though not enough to pay the claims.

The fact that many homeowners hit by Hurricane Sandy have no flood or homeowners insurance could prompt Congress to provide assistance to the uninsured, too, as happened after Hurricane Katrina, further raising the cost to the federal Treasury.

Officials in New Jersey and New York say the federal government must move quickly to put the flood insurance program back on stable footing, even if it means increasing the federal deficit.

“All we want in our community — not any more and absolutely not less — is what is due to Sea Isle,” said Leonard C. Desiderio, the mayor of Sea Isle City, N.J., one of the coastal towns hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Katrina put the program so deeply into debt that federal officials have acknowledged they will never be able to fully repay the $18 billion Treasury-financed loan that bailed the program out.

FEMA, as a result of this year’s legislation, has the authority to raise premiums by as much as 25 percent per year over the next five years. The increases will be imposed mostly on vacation homes and other properties that repeatedly flood, but whose owners have paid far below market insurance rates. The legislation also authorizes the creation of a national reserve fund to help the program handle major flood catastrophes, and urges Congress to appropriate $400 million a year to update the thousands of out-of-date flood control maps. That would likely force new homes to be built elevated off the ground in spots where rising sea levels or recent major storms have had an impact.

Lawmakers who pushed the legislation call it major progress in fixing the program’s well-documented failings.

“The program is on a much more responsible path than it had been just one year ago,” said Zachary Cikanek, a spokesman for Representative Judy Biggert, Republican of Illinois, who co-sponsored the legislation.

But others say much more needs to be done. The federal government should ensure continuous coverage in flood-prone areas, spreading the risk among a larger pool of homeowners, who now often allow their coverage to lapse, said Robert Hunter, an insurance administrator in the Ford and Carter administrations.

The 20,000 communities that participate should also be adopting stronger building or flood prevention codes the way Florida has since Hurricane Andrew did $23 billion worth of damage in 1992. Mr. Hunter pointed to earthquake-prone Chile, where builders must assume the liability for catastrophic earthquake damage for 10 years after construction. “This program still encourages unwise construction instead of discouraging it, and to me that means the program has failed, even with the reforms Congress just adopted,” Mr. Hunter said. “People are being killed and their properties are being destroyed because of a government that gives the false impression that there is less of a flood risk than there really is.”

Eric Lipton reported from Washington, Felicity Barringer from San Francisco, and Mary Williams Walsh from Philadelphia. Jon Hurdle contributed reporting from Tuckerton, N.J.

Insurance process begins in Connecticut
Rob Varnon, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 11:08 p.m., Sunday, November 4, 2012

People looking to rebuild their lives after Superstorm Sandy destroyed and damaged their homes may now have another struggle on their hands: Navigating the often-frustrating claims process with their insurance companies.

Sandy's destructive path was much wider than last year's Tropical Storm Irene, which resulted in an eye-popping $240 million in paid claims and taught policy holders and regulators some valuable lessons that may make life easier this time around:

People won't be paying exorbitant hurricane deductibles for Sandy -- which technically hit land as a tropical storm -- thanks to a new law enacted last December.

Though there is a lag between when you file a claim and when you get paid, insurers are required by law to pay in a timely way or face hefty fines.

Residents also should be aware that homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, and that if you don't have flood insurance you can forget about collecting for flood damage on your homeowner's policy

And people also can expect their premiums to go up.

Jan Morris, whose Hillside Avenue home in Milford is across the street from a row of houses that are no longer habitable, said she felt lucky to survive the storm with only roof damage. The front half of her roof will have to be replaced, but unlike when Irene hit, she isn't facing the hurricane deductible.

"I did have a claim for windows in Irene," Morris said. But her deductible was $7,000, so she paid for that out of pocket. "They will be covering the roof this year. Go figure."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last week warned insurers not to charge hurricane deductibles, which often are a percentage of the home's total value and can be quite high.

Now people will be paying only their standard home or flood insurance deductibles for repairs.

"The state moved very swiftly to alert the industry that this storm -- although devastating to so many -- did not meet the criteria for a hurricane deductible under state law. Homeowners will not have to pay high-cost hurricane deductibles for damage resulting from this storm," Malloy said.

Donna Tommelleo, an Insurance Department spokeswoman, said insurers face fines if they don't pay claims quickly, and that people should contact the department's consumer advocate if they have problems collecting.

But Tommelleo said the insurance industry in Connecticut has a good record for paying out claims.

"For Irene, we got 250 complaints," she said, noting not all were substantiated. "But when you put that in perspective, the industry had 60,000 claims from Irene and paid out almost $240 million."

Ron Kalb, an agent with Siegel Insurance Agency in Danbury, said smaller repairs usually are paid out more quickly. The home or business owner often is told to survey the damage, take photos and then hire a contractor to do the work with the bill to be submitted later.

But a total rebuild does take longer, not only as the insurer must document the costs but because the design and construction process also takes more time.

People also should read their policies carefully so they understand what is covered and what isn't.

Standard homeowner's insurance does not cover flooding, Kalb said.

"If people don't have flood insurance, they're going to be out of luck," Kalb said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program is the country's largest provider of flood insurance, which is not offered by many commercial carriers.

But people without insurance are not totally without help. Federal aid is available to individuals and business owners affected by the storm.

There are disaster loans up to $200,000 available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.

Businesses and private non-profit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. The SBA may increase a loan up to 20 percent of the total amount of disaster damage to real estate and/or leasehold improvements, as verified by SBA, to make improvements that lessen the risk of property damage by future disasters of the same kind.

Diego Alvarado, a FEMA spokesman, said people should call and register with the agency to get the process going.

As with insurance, it takes time before funds are paid out, he said.

Jennifer Wislocki, a spokeswoman for Travelers in Connecticut, said her company already is receiving claims and has about 5,000 people staffing phones or meeting in person with customers. It has set up five mobile claim offices in affected areas. Other insurers reported taking similar steps.

She said; "We are committed to reaching impacted customers, as soon as it is safe to do so, to help them being the recovery process as quickly as possible."

Feds: More than 7,000 in Connecticut seeking storm help
New London DAY
Associated Press
Published 11/13/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 11/13/2012 07:36 AM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Federal officials say more than 7,000 property owners in Connecticut have applied for help to recover from Superstorm Sandy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded about $4 million for state residents forced out of their homes by the storm that pounded the Northeast on Oct. 29.

The Connecticut Post reports that FEMA spokeswoman Rita Egan said Monday agency workers have received applications from 7,271 property owners statewide. Most applications were from residents in hard-hit shoreline towns in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

Egan says about 3,466 applicants have asked for home inspections and about 2,000 have been completed by the agency's field workers.

Of the nearly $4 million in FEMA awards approved by Monday, all but about $200,000 were for housing assistance.

The remainder was for personal property loss.

Fight likely in Congress over Hurricane Sandy funds
Ana Radelat
November 1, 2012

Washington -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has enough money to respond to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. But others say more money will be needed, and storm victims may not be able to get all the help they need -- unless Congress steps in.

Securing more money for FEMA to help storm victims could be quite a fight in a budget-cutting Congress.

Democrats, especially those in storm-tossed states, may be willing to vote for more funds.

"My understanding is that FEMA has sufficient funding at the moment, but this recovery is still in the beginning stages, and it will take time for us to know exactly what FEMA needs," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "I will work with FEMA and my colleagues to make sure we can help those affected rebuild and come out of this stronger than ever."

Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said, "I will be working with the rest of the delegation to ensure that Connecticut gets everything it needs as Congress works with governors and states to rebuild."

"And I hope," he added, "that the needs of the nation will overcome the partisan gridlock we've seen too much of this last year."

But other lawmakers who are trying to save other programs from cuts or want to trim FEMA's reach may object to new funding.

"There is no indication FEMA will need additional funds," said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

The Obama administration has already declared large parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia major disaster areas that are eligible for a flood of federal help, and other declarations are expected.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fulgate says his agency's $3.6 billion emergency fund will be enough to meet all needs.

But others are less certain.

On Wednesday, Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he will introduce legislation to provide $12 billion in additional FEMA emergency assistance funds.

"The American people deserve, and insist on, the kind of first-rate recovery response that FEMA can provide," said Fattah, who represents a Philadelphia-based district impacted by the storm. "But we cannot do it on the cheap."

The issue of whether FEMA has enough money to help all of Sandy's victims and reimburse local governments for the costs of responding to storm is expected to come up in a lame duck session of  Congress after the Nov. 6 elections.

A big worry for the insurance industry is whether FEMA will have enough money to meet its obligations under the federal flood insurance program.

Homeowners' policies don't cover flood damage. So homeowners who live on federally designated flood plains -- areas near the coastline and other bodies of waters -- are required by their mortgage lenders to buy flood insurance.

Flood insurance policies are sold by insurance companies, often through independent agents. But they are underwritten by FEMA, which pays out all claims.

FEMA has about $920 million in its flood insurance account, and another $2.9 billion left in borrowing authority from the U.S. Treasury. That means the flood insurance program can pay out about $3.8 billion in claims.

But John Prible, vice president of federal affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, is concerned that's not enough money.

"My hunch is that this is going to exceed the $3.8 billion, in which case there's no other option but that Congress ask for more or some consumers will not be paid their claims," Prible said.

There were huge fights in Congress when Hurricane Katrina decimated the flood insurance fund, forcing Congress to give FEMA $21 billion in borrowing authority to pay all claims.

Prible estimated that Sandy will cost $7 billion to $15 billion in homeowner policy losses, and an as yet undetermined amount in flood insurance claims.

He said Congress will not like appropriating more money for FEMA.

"But (lawmakers) are going to like it a lot less if their constituents' claims are not paid," he said.

Prible also said the reputations of insurance companies and insurance agents who sell flood insurance policies are on the line because policyholders will be "furious" at the industry, as well as at the federal government, if claims are not paid.

"A fight (in Congress) is definitely coming," Prible said. "But right now everybody is trying to remain calm."

Tropical Storm Beryl makes landfall on Fla. coast, bring soaking rains to Ga.
Last Updated: 9:41 AM, May 28, 2012
Posted: 12:34 AM, May 28, 2012

Drenching rains from Tropical Storm Beryl are bringing a soggy Memorial Day to the southeastern US coast, though one Georgia official says he expects the rainfall to be largely beneficial.

Ray Parker is the emergency management chief for McIntosh County on the Georgia coast. He said Monday that the 1 to 2 inches of rain that fell in his area overnight had been absorbed like it "fell on an empty sponge."

Parker says his county south of Savannah saw minimal damage as Beryl came ashore in northern Florida early Monday. Most came from scattered power outages caused by falling tree limbs. He says two homes had trees fall on them.

Beryl was forecast to weaken as it hovered near the Georgia-Florida line.  The storm made landfall late Sunday in northeastern Florida, bringing drenching rains and driving winds to the southeastern U.S. coast, forecasters said.  The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported late Sunday that Beryl made landfall over Duval and northern St. John's counties, with near-hurricane-strength winds of 70 mph.

"There are strong rain bands that are rotating around the center of the storm," forecaster Al Sandrik said in an audio statement on the NHC website.

The weather system was expected to weaken as it moves inland and become a tropical depression by Monday night.  Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the entire Georgia coastline, as well as parts of Florida and South Carolina.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged Florida residents in the affected areas to "stay alert and aware."

"Tropical Storm Beryl is expected to bring heavy rain and winds, and it is vital to continue to monitor local news reports and listen to the advice of local emergency management officials," Scott said in a statement early Sunday evening.

Beryl was expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to parts, with some areas getting as much as 12 inches. Forecasters predict the storm surge and tide will cause significant coastal flooding in northeastern Florida, Georgia and southern South Carolina.  The weather system could complicate holiday traffic on Monday, and it wrecked some Memorial Day weekend plans on Sunday, causing shoreline campers to pack up and head inland and leading to the cancellation of some events.

Campers at Cumberland Island, Ga., which is reachable only by boat, were told to leave by 4:45 p.m. Sunday. The island has a number of undeveloped beaches and forests popular with campers.  However, many people seemed determined to make the best of the soggy forecast.

At Greyfield Inn, a 19th-century mansion and the only private inn on Cumberland Island, the rooms were nearly full Sunday and everyone was planning to stay put through the wet weather, said Dawn Drake, who answered the phone at the inn's office on the Florida coast.

In Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday's jazz festival and Memorial Day ceremony were canceled. Workers were also out clearing tree limbs and debris that could be tossed about by the storm's winds. Winds had already knocked down tree limbs and power lines in parts of coastal Georgia, leaving hundreds without electricity.

But business was booming at the Red Dog Surf Shop in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where customers flocked to buy boards and wax in anticipation of the storm's high waves. Officials along the coast warned of rip currents, waves and high tides — all of which can be dangerous but also tend to attract adventurous surfers. The waters had already become dangerous in South Carolina, where rescuers were searching for a missing swimmer.

The Coast Guard said three people and a dog were rescued from a sinking recreational vehicle by crews in Charleston Harbor late Sunday morning.

"There were wave heights of roughly four feet, the waves started depositing water in the boat and the boat started to get overwhelmed, it started to sink," Petty Officer Christopher Evanson, a Coast Guard spokesman, told the Associated Press. "The Coast Guard was able to get on scene, get alongside the boat and disembark the passengers.

Evanson said the Guard is "trying to convince boaters and swimmers alike to stay away from the water. It's very dangerous right now and we're trying to stay vigilant and we're out there trying to ensure that everybody is safe.  In Jacksonville Beach, Fernando Sola said business was booming at his Happy Faces Ice Cream truck. A bus- full of tourists from South Carolina had stopped to buy some ice cream and watch the storm waters churn.

"There are actually more people than on a normal day. It's working out great," said Sola, taking a few moments away from scooping ice cream to people lined up in front of his truck.  Steady, heavy winds kicked up sand across the area, forcing onlookers to shield themselves with towels.  Jessica Smith and Chester Jaheeb decided to brave the waters despite many warnings for people to stay out. Jaheeb, who was born in India but lives in Jacksonville, said he had never experienced a tropical storm before.

"We were at a certain part that started pulling us out, like the rip current, so we decided to come to shore," said Smith, 17.

Taylor Anderson, captain of Jacksonville Beach's American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps., said his lifeguards went body-surfing early Sunday to get acclimated with the surf conditions for what looked to be a long day. They also reviewed methods to determine where there might be riptides.

"They look for discoloration, the water moving paradoxically back to sea, and our lifeguards are trained to spot that, to keep people away from that, especially when the surf is this high. It makes those run-outs very dangerous. People can get sucked into those very fast, especially with the high surf and the high wind," he said.

Though the weather was calm earlier Sunday, Anderson's lifeguards began preparing other equipment in the morning. They packed sandbags in front of the entrances to the oceanfront Red Cross lifeguard station and pulled lifeguard stands off the beach.  As the winds picked up, officials hung two red flags, one warning of dangerous ocean conditions and the other notifying beachgoers that swimming was prohibited. But a lot of people ignored the warnings. By 3:30 p.m., Anderson said, lifeguards had made 150 "preventions," meaning lifeguards ordered 150 people out of the water, though no rescues were necessary.

One of the people ordered out the water was Christian Siciliano, 14, of Jacksonville Beach. The surfer said the waves were too rough for surfing so he, his brother and a friend decided to go boogey-boarding.

"We just went out to, like, mess around," Christian said. "It was really rough. I didn't make it out too far, about 10 feet."

He said the waves were so powerful it was difficult to paddle against them. Then lifeguards raced to the area and ordered him and the two other youths from the water.

Bars and restaurants along Jacksonville Beach's oceanside roads were enjoying booming business, with outside decks crowded with people listening to music, drinking and watching the weather. At Joe's Crab Shack, which has a deck facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" blasted from outside speakers.

Joe Murphy, a spokesman for the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla., said he was not seeing a flood of checkouts or people trying to get off the island. Outdoor dining had been moved inside and the hotel set up movies and family game activities, but the hotel had no plans to board up or move patio furniture inside.

The southeastern U.S. wasn't the only part of the country dealing with troublesome weather.

In Washington, the annual Memorial Day concert on the National Mall Sunday night was cut short as a line of thunderstorms approached the District of Columbia from the northwest. Mike Musher of the National Weather Service said the thunderstorms developed over Pennsylvania as part of the weather system that created record high temperatures in the Midwest over the weekend.

On Tybee Island, a barrier island not far from Savannah, water off the beaches was closed for swimming Sunday. Tybee Island fire Chief C.L. Sasser said winds of up to 42 mph were creating "horrendous water currents." Only people with flotation devices strapped or tethered to their bodies were being allowed into the water, and they were being cautioned not to venture in farther than knee deep.

"Even if you're standing in waist-deep water, the current can sweep you out quickly," he said.

His ocean rescue team pulled a total of 48 people from the water on Saturday, he said, including about 27 that were considered to be in life-threatening conditions. One man who was sucked under the water was rescued by friends and onlookers and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

A band of showers soaked the beaches late Sunday morning, causing crowds to thin, Sasser said. With alternating rainy and sunny weather forecast throughout the day, he said he expected the crowds on the sands to ebb and flow.

In South Carolina, Janice Keith with the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said Sunday that the office hadn't fielded any calls from concerned tourists.

In Beaufort County, emergency management deputy director David Zeoli said officials were continuing to monitor the storm and encourage people to have a plan in case conditions get worse.

Zeoli said winds had kicked up in the area that includes Hilton Head Island, a popular golf and beach destination. "It's just a wet day here," he said.

Federal Forecasters: 9 To 15 Storms This Hurricane Season
Hartford Courant
By MATTHEW STURDEVANT, msturdevant@courant.com
1:34 PM EDT, May 24, 2012

This year's hurricane season is forecast to be a bit quieter than the usual summer of the past three decades, according to the nation's two leading forecast centers.

The season will bring between nine and 15 named storms with winds of 39 mph or greater, according to a forecast released Thursday by the National Hurricane Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The hurricane center said there is a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms, of which four to eight will be hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or great, and one to three will be major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more.

That's below the average of the period from 1981-to-2010 of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

"NOAA's outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years," said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. "But regardless of the outlook, it's vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew."

Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane that his South Florida on Aug. 24, 1992.

The National Hurricane Center's prediction is similar that of the nation's other closely-watched hurricane forecasting center at Colorado State University.

In mid-April, the Colorado forecasters said the season would have 10 named storms, four of which would be hurricanes and two of which would be major hurricanes.

Tropical Storm Irene crashed through Connecticut in August 2011, which caused flooding, toppled trees and power lines and resulted in electricity outages that lasted longer than a week for some residents. Before Irene, the last tropical storm to make landfall in the state was Floyd in 1999. The last hurricane to hit Connecticut was Bob in 1991.

In May 2011, the National Hurricane Center forecast last year's season to have 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes.

In April 2011, the Colorado State forecasters forecast the season would bring 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes and five major hurricanes in the Atlantic.

The 2011 season delivered 19 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

Dissatisfaction with farm disaster benefits floats up with Irene

Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
September 13, 2011

Shelly Oechsler managed a touch of humor offering a photo of fields on her family's 400-acre Botticello Farms two days after tropical storm Irene struck.

"What you are looking at is some of our peppers," she said in an email. "If you were a scuba diver, that is."

Just about all 400 acres, most of which are in Glastonbury, wound up under the waters of the double-edged agricultural sword of the Connecticut River. It provides unparalleled soil for farming most of the time, but is devastating when it floods.

"One hundred percent loss," Oechsler said of the farm's mainly fall crops--pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, corn, peppers and more--which they are now trying to purchase elsewhere to keep their farm stand going.

But the overflow of the river during Irene, made worse by last week's three days of downpours, is only part of the failure farmers like Oechsler say they're feeling.

Many complain that crop insurance and other loss coverage programs are costly, with payout restrictions that often result in no benefits, and that disaster assistance--if they can even qualify--is mostly in the form of loans.

"Borrowing to pay today's debts based on the potential of reaping a successful harvest next year is not a good bet if we plan on keeping the farm," Oechsler said, noting this was their fourth bad year in a row. "I understand the concept of government can't just be giving people money, but it can bail out the banks and bailout Chrysler and those people. What about your food source?"

Chris Bassette, who with her husband Kevin farm about 85 acres of mixed vegetables along the river in South Glastonbury at their Killam & Bassette farmstead, had eight acres of corn blown down by Irene. Before they could salvage it, 18 acres, including the corn, flooded and last week's rain rendered what's left susceptible to disease and mold. They've lost one-third to one-half of their overall produce and both Bassettes are considering finding non-farm jobs over the winter.

But a loan? "How much money can you borrow?" asked Bassette who said the farm has had at least one loss claim each of the last eight years. "We borrowed a lot this year to start up; borrowed against another farm loan that we had. How much do you want to go in debt?"

The core of many farmers' complaints is federal crop insurance, which they feel is geared towards commodity farmers in the Midwest, not the small farms of Connecticut that typically operate on tight margins using the profits from one growing season to pay for seed and other operational costs the next. Crop insurance, while county specific, only covers a handful of crops in Connecticut: tobacco, nursery plants, sweet and field corn, apples, some peaches and potatoes. It does not cover the vast array of vegetables and fruit grown by most of the state's farmers.

For those crops, farmers can purchase protection through the Noninsured Assistance Program, NAP. But many like Botticello and Killam & Bassette have chosen to cover only their most valuable crops. And some, like Patrick Horan of Waldingfield Farm in Washington Depot, go without because of rising premium costs and the high percentage losses need to reach to trigger payouts.

"Financing follows the bigger folks first, then we little farms gets the scraps," said Horan, who specializes in heirloom tomatoes, 60 percent of which he said were ruined by the recent rains. He said he'll file paperwork for assistance, "but I'm not really in the mood to borrow money just to owe it back."

Even insurers concede the need to fill gaps in crop coverage in Connecticut, but point out not too many years ago, about the only thing you could insure was tobacco. "We are constantly working with officials to get crop insurance expanded," said James Putnam, executive vice president of Farm Credit East in Enfield. He said a pilot program called Adjusted Gross Revenue, which bundles crops for coverage, has had few takers because of its requirement for five years of detailed records.

How insurance coverage links to disaster assistance is another bone of contention many farmers have with the system. The presidential disaster declaration, like the one in place now in Connecticut, does not cover crops. It covers losses to property, equipment, structures and certain perennial plants like fruit trees and grapevines--but not the fruit on them--and it provides low interest loans only.

Disaster assistance for crops requires something known as a "secretarial designation." The U.S. secretary of agriculture makes that determination based on loss data compiled by county. The data for Connecticut as a result of Irene is being collated by the USDA's Farm Service Agency Connecticut office and is expected to be turned over to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this week so he can make the official request to Washington.

If approved, it provides loans for crop losses, if other criteria are met including whether a farmer's credit is good enough to qualify for a loan from a private lending institution instead. It also can provide a cash payment known as Supplemental Revenue Assistance, SURE, but only to farmers who are insured and/or covered by NAP on all of their crops.

Michele Collins, whose husband's family owns Fair Weather Acres in Rocky Hill, the largest green bean grower in New England, said they used to buy crop insurance but stopped because the loss threshold was so high. Irene flooded 250 of their 437 planted acres, killing more than $800,000 in green beans and pumpkins. But loss calculation formulas mean they are unlikely to receive any federal assistance.

"We probably won't do wholesale farming next year," said Collins who expects the family will sell off equipment to pay existing loans. "I don't know what we can do," she said.

Federal and state agriculture officials bristle at the notion that policies may be failing farmers in Connecticut.

"No, not at all," said Rosemary Edwards, program specialist at the Connecticut FSA. "NAP, risk management insurance--it's not out to give you a profit. It's out to cover expenses so you can plant again next year."

Executive Director Marsha Jetté said the low interest loans "give them a another tool for them to recover."

State Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky said he realized the insurance issue is difficult for some farmers. "We're always tweaking it trying to get it to meet the current situation in agriculture that we have here in the Northeast," he said. "There's no simple answer here. Is it fair to those people who make all the right steps and take the necessary precautions to have  a major payout  to those who don't?

"We're going do whatever it is we can do to insure as much assistance is available from the government," he said. "But it's not to make everybody whole"

The full assessment of farm losses is likely to take some time So far, indications are the apple crop will be off 10 to 12 percent. The heaviest losses appear to be in the Connecticut and Farmington River valleys, but crops that handle rain badly - tomatoes, summer squash and greens - were destroyed everywhere. Some farmers still can't get into muddy fields see damage. Others won't be able to make final tallies until harvest ends late in October.

Farm Service Agency county offices say they're getting damage calls from people they never hear from. And they note that collateral damage and costs could go clear through the winter into next season due to things like silt-covered hayfields that won't be able to be planted next season. Loss of power destroyed silage for animals. Feed will now have to be purchased at additional expense. Finding replacement crops for farm stands is increasingly difficult with growers throughout the Northeast also facing flood-related crop loss. Saturated crops in fields are requiring additional anti-disease treatment. More than a few farmers have had to contend with equipment swallowed up by mud.

That said, farmers are an optimistic bunch who readily admit they farm because they love it and realize the vicissitudes of nature come with the territory. Reviczky said things could have been worse. "I don't want people to lose sight of the fact that there will still be Connecticut-grown fruits and vegetables," he said. "On the bright side, the demand for locally-grown has never been better."

Storm building over relief spending for Irene, other disasters
Deirdre Shesgreen, CT MIRROR
September 12, 2011

WASHINGTON--A political tempest is brewing over the Obama Administration's request for $6.9 billion in disaster funding to help states hit by Hurricane Irene and a spate of other recent events.

On Friday, the White House sent Congress a request for $500 million in emergency funding to replenish the nearly-depleted coffers of the federal Disaster Relief Fund. That money is needed to help carry relief efforts through the end of fiscal year 2011, which ends Sept. 30.

At the same time, the White House also asked for $6.4 billion in disaster relief funding for fiscal year 2012. That's $4.6 billion more than the President initially sought in his 2012 budget request, including an extra $1.5 billion to respond to the massive damage Hurricane Irene caused in Connecticut and other states.

The Senate could take up both funding requests as early as this week, but the issue may get tangled up in the highly-charged debate over reducing the federal debt and the scramble to finish the annual spending bills that will fund the government for fiscal year 2012.

The Administration's disaster aid request comes as Congress faces a daunting task of reducing federal spending by $1.5 trillion over the next year--even more if lawmakers adopt any elements of the jobs plan that President Obama laid out last week.

But it also comes at an urgent moment for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund. As of Friday, FEMA had less than $500 million in that fund, which is used to help states, cities, and families recover and rebuild in the wake of natural disasters.

Because of its quickly diminishing resources, FEMA is now operating the Disaster Relief Fund in an "emergency needs posture," which means the agency is delaying aid for longer-term rebuilding and mitigation projects and instead channeling all its funding towards immediate relief efforts.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he planned to bring up a stand-alone emergency bill as early as this week to refill FEMA's disaster aid pot. He called for a package that would cover the final weeks of 2011 and all 2012, costing as much as $7 billion.

"It looks like FEMA may run out of money before we get to the end of this fiscal year," said Adam Jentleson, Reid's spokesman. Congress needs to ensure that doesn't happen, he said, but "how much we need to cover that shortfall and where it will come from it still being worked out."

FEMA officials note that they've been in an "emergency needs posture" in previous years, and they stressed the current situation will not affect individual assistance for disaster survivors who suffered losses from Irene. The White House's request last week for additional funding "will ensure that we can continue to support the immediate needs of disaster survivors for previous and ongoing disasters, as well as support our state partners as they respond to current and future events," said Rachel Racusen, FEMA's director of public affairs.

But Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who chairs the Senate spending committee that oversees homeland security funding, said that repeated shortfalls in FEMA's disaster fund has created a backlog in the agency's response to previous events.

"Since 2001, FEMA has had to stop critical disaster recovery projects six times due to lack of funding," she said in a statement on Friday. "That means the rebuilding of schools, hospitals, roads and public utilities that our communities rely on are needlessly delayed."

Because of the current funding crunch, FEMA hasn't approved any new applications for disaster aid stemming from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, along with floods in the Midwest, a staffer for Landrieu added. The problem is now compounded by Hurricane Irene, and the hurricane season isn't over.

That's fueling concerns that the agency's disaster aid fund could run dry before the end of the fiscal year. Indeed, FEMA has burned through more than $300 million in just the last two weeks. "The balance in the Disaster Relief Fund is now below $484 million, which means the fund could run out before the end of this month," Landrieu noted in her statement, calling for "swift action" on the White House request.

Even before Irene hit, the issue of disaster aid had become contentious. Earlier this summer, after FEMA announced it was shifting into its "immediate needs posture," House Republicans blasted the Obama Administration for "purposefully" underfunding the Disaster Relief Fund.

"Time and again, the Administration has ignored the obvious funding needs" for disaster aid, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said in an Aug. 27 statement. "Now the Administration has let the fund reach critically low levels, putting continued recovery at risk, without a plan for the future or a clear method for new disasters."

But previous Administrations have similarly asked for less funding than needed--and previous Congresses have happily gone along. Then when a hurricane, tornado, or other disaster hits, lawmakers rush to make up the difference with an "emergency" supplemental bill that's exempt from regular budget caps.

With Congress now grappling with its $1.5 trillion debt-reduction mandate, however, this disaster aid bill could face a stormier path. The issue of disaster funding became a partisan flashpoint earlier this month when Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said any increase in disaster aid needed to be balanced by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Cantor has since backed off that statement, saying House GOP leaders would not block aid to disaster-struck states, including his home state of Virginia, which was recently hit by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Still, Cantor said Congress needs to act "responsibly" in its funding decisions. And Republican House staffer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the House Appropriations Committee would likely look for offsets to cover at least some the new disaster funding, although not the entire price tag.

Members of Connecticut's congressional delegation said there should be no fight over funding disaster aid.

"The debate over whether we can find the money to help disaster survivors respond is nonsense," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who has otherwise taken a hard line on the need to slash federal spending.

"Once the President declared Connecticut a disaster area, our residents had the right to the assistance for which they are eligible," said Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee. "Just as we said during the debt ceiling debate, America doesn't default on its debts and we don't default on our obligations to people who have been hurt by Irene here in Connecticut or anywhere else."

In addition to the questions of how to pay for a bigger bill, House GOP appropriators have also signaled that they want to pass the new aid as part of a short-term spending bill for 2012 or through the regular appropriations process for homeland security, not as an emergency measure.

But the short-term spending bill hasn't been written yet. And Jentleson, Reid's spokesman, said tying it to the broader homeland security appropriations bill could slow down the process because that legislation includes funding for a wide range of federal programs, not just FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund.

"There's a lot of other things in there that could hold it up, and we want to make sure we get this money through as soon as possible," Jentleson said.

On Monday, Jentleson said there was still no agreement on when or how to move the disaster aid bill. But Lieberman said he was optimistic the disaster bill would not get tied up.

"I have faith my colleagues will come together across party lines, as we have done in the past, to replenish FEMA's disaster relief fund, which was designed to provide money in exactly this kind of emergency," he said.

August 23, 2011 FORUM;  "About Town" watercolor - dam at lower right.
Earthquake felt up and down East Coast; Weston dam appears uncompromised

TUESDAY, 5:30 p.m. — Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said Joe Mogollon, the town's acting emergency management director, called Bridgeport Hydraulic to check on the status of the Samuel Senior Dam in Weston this afternoon after tremors were felt in town from a magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia.

"They wanted to make sure the dam was not compromised. So far they have found nothing wrong," Ms. Weinstein said.

Obama approves federal disaster funding for Connecticut
Published: 10:42 p.m., Friday, May 28, 2010

Less than 24 hours after filing an appeal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to secure federal funds for individuals whose homes were damaged in the March nor'easter and others storms, Gov. M. Jodi Rell received approval from President Barack Obama.

"This is wonderful news -- and it is exactly the right decision," Rell said in a statement. "The information we provided just a day ago to the federal government demonstrated conclusively that Connecticut's residents and employers suffered major, unreimbursed losses from these storms. They need help -- and now they are getting it."

Rell said staff from the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security worked closely with 13 FEMA teams to verify nearly 2,500 damaged homes in five counties, with damage estimated at $13.5 million, almost double the 1,315 homes identified in the first application.

Of the 2,498 homes, 588 are in Fairfield County. The others are in Middlesex, New London, New Haven and Windham counties.

The state's assessment also found that only 7 percent of residents filing damage reports are fully insured for damage.

The president last month approved a disaster declaration for public assistance, freeing up federal funding to municipal governments in Fairfield, Middlesex and New London counties.

The March 13 nor'easter left thousands of households in lower Fairfield County without power for several days, knocking down trees and closing roads. A severe storm at the end of March affected northern parts of the state.

Columbia Yearbook picture, we assume.  Some people study how to walk on water, so they don't see flooding as a problem?
Obama's aid decision stirs anger.  Residents, business owners in state denied financial flooding help; Rell plans to appeal
By Joe Wojtas, Megan Bard and Chuck Potter Day Staff Writers
Article published Apr 28, 2010

Since last month's floods, residents and business owners in communities across southeastern Connecticut whose properties were damaged have heard repeated assurances that the federal government would cover their noninsured losses.

Both the state and New London County easily exceeded the monetary threshold needed to qualify for disaster assistance, and last week President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration that allowed aid to begin flowing to the state and municipalities to cover their costs.  But on Tuesday afternoon, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced that Obama had denied the state's request for individual aid.

The news angered both local officials and residents.

"I'm thoroughly disgusted with him," Beverly Haley of Old Mystic said of Obama. She and her husband, Wes, who have lived in their house since 1952, are facing $20,000 worth of damage after water filled their basement and reached the first floor.

"It shows where his interests are. He's not out to help the common man at all," Wes Haley said of the president while noting that repair costs will take a big bite out of his retirement savings. "There's a lot of people who can't afford this."

Stonington First Selectmen Ed Haberek, who as late as Monday had reassured worried residents that the aid would be coming, called Obama's decision "disgraceful."

"The denial of this aid just puts salt in the wounds of our residents," he said.

Haberek said he was especially surprised since FEMA officials toured the damaged areas with him in the days after the storm, causing what some said was the worst flooding in town since the hurricane of 1938. 
Many areas of town that had never flooded before were inundated with water, while the center of Old Mystic was turned into a rushing river.  The denial of individual aid is especially incomprehensible for Pawcatuck residents, who have seen their neighbors across the river in Westerly, R.I., already receive reimbursement checks to partially cover their damage costs.

Residential and business losses in Stonington are estimated at $2 million. The town expects to spend $1.6 million on road and bridge repairs and costs such as overtime accumulated by police and highway workers during the storm.  Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said the denial proves his feeling that Obama is out of touch with reality.

"No justification he could offer would provide an adequate answer other than the fact that he doesn't give a damn about what people here have suffered," Nystrom said, adding that he witnessed much of the $3 million in damage in his city by walking through businesses and residences.

In Griswold, First Selectman Philip Anthony Jr. said hundreds of people have filled out Federal Emergency Management Agency paperwork asking for assistance.
"I really am shocked and disappointed," Anthony said. "I want an answer as to why a declaration for residents and businesses was made in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but not New London County."

On Tuesday the White House press office referred questions to a FEMA spokesman in Boston who said he could only speak about the FEMA process and not the reason for denial.

Rich Harris, a spokesman for Rell, said Tuesday night that he did not immediately know if the letter Rell received included a reason for the denial.  Last week Obama approved Rell's request for a major disaster declaration in response to the storms that struck the state March 12-14 and March 29-31. That declaration was to allow financial assistance to the state and municipal governments along with certain nonprofit organizations but did not cover aid to individuals and businesses affected by the storms.

Rell said she immediately started gathering information for a formal appeal, which must be filed within 30 days. Municipal leaders pledged to do whatever they can to help her with the process.

"This decision is not only disappointing - it's wrong, and I will appeal it," Rell said in a statement. "I have directed our state emergency management officials to immediately gather whatever information may be needed to further support our application for assistance. I will also work with our Congressional delegation and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to continue pursuing this matter until all avenues for aid are exhausted."

Rell said surveys found 1,315 homes in five Connecticut counties suffered damages totaling $5.2 million, while 116 businesses accounted for damages of $5.4 million.

After learning about the aid denial, Anthony said, he immediately called the governor's office to offer his support for the appeal. "I'm watching some of my residents suffer, the people on fixed incomes who can't afford to replace a water heater or a furnace without some help. I hope they pursue (the appeal) with vigor," Anthony said, adding that he plans to try to contact U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, this morning.

Anthony said he intends to ask more questions about the president's decision when he and other municipal officials meet with FEMA representatives Friday morning in Stonington to discuss the aid for cities and towns.

Waterford First Selectman Daniel Steward, who estimated there were more than 1,000 homes damaged in that town during the flooding, held out hope for a successful appeal by Rell.

"We're also concerned about the president's decision to not fund the personal-property damages," Steward said, "and hope the governor is successful in her appeal."

Montville Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz said he was surprised by the president's decision and fully supports the governor's appeal effort.

"I don't agree with the president on this one. The people should be taken care of," Jaskiewicz said Tuesday night.

Although he did not have a cost estimate of damage done to houses and businesses in Montville, the mayor said some were "unbelievable."
"People lost their basements," he said. "I just don't know why he didn't approve this."

Director of Health Mark Cooper, Community Health Director Monica Wheeler, and Director of Emergency Preparedness and Support Services Ken Kellogg.  Aquifer and septic graphics from WWHD.

This website provides a link to interesting interviews about our region, the people in it, and problems we all face.  We are delighted to be able to present ten different shows, linked to below.


Watch this three-part interview with Mark Cooper, Director of Health; Monica Wheeler, Community Health Director; and Ken Kellogg, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Support Services, of the Westport Weston Health District.   These exceptionally knowledgeable professionals present information that is vitally important to all of us, about H1N1 flu, water quality, environmental health, emergency management, and many other topics that are fundamental to maintaining our health, our environment, and even the value of our homes!

For Part 1, please  Click Here If You Are Using A Dial-Up Modem

For Part 1, please  Click Here If You Are Using A DSL Or Cable Connection

For Part 2, please
  Click Here If You Are Using A Dial-Up Modem

For Part 2, please
  Click Here If You Are Using A DSL Or Cable Connection

For Part 3, please  Click Here If You Are Using A Dial-Up Modem

For Part 3, please
  Click Here If You Are Using A DSL Or Cable Connection

S E P T E M B E R   E M E R G E N C Y   P R E P A R E D N E S S   M O N T H - click here for nice announcement of previous meeting.  Picture story on previous September event.

FEMA to Focus on Children's Needs During Disasters
Filed at 2:24 p.m. ET
August 3, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency is going to plan more broadly for children and their needs as the government prepares for disasters.

''Children are not small adults,'' FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said Monday.

Most disaster plans are crafted around adult populations, and people with specific needs -- such as children -- are often an afterthought, Fugate said in an interview with The Associated Press.

A new FEMA working group will work with the congressionally mandated National Commission on Children and Disasters, created in 2007. The FEMA group will focus on specific guidance for evacuating, sheltering and relocating children; helping childcare centers, schools and child welfare programs prepare for disasters; and making disaster preparation part of the Homeland Security Department's grant programs.

The working group's findings could mean changes to the country's blueprint for disaster response, known as the National Response Framework, Fugate said.

The Bush administration rewrote this national disaster plan after Hurricane Katrina. The new 82-page plan, issued in January 2008, does not include the word ''children,'' but it does mention pets. That plan, however, is supplemented by more than 200 pages of annexes, which do address children's needs, though not in depth.

''Let's look at children not as something we're going to deal with after we write the plan,'' Fugate said.

He said he intends to draw more heavily on existing federal, state and local programs that already deal with children ''in every community every day.''

Revisions in Westport flood zones floated
Paul Schott, Westport NEWS
Updated 07:53 a.m., Thursday, July 26, 2012

About 1,100 Westport properties will be affected next year by new flood zone maps prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the town's Planning and Zoning Department.

Most of the affected properties are in neighborhoods adjacent to Long Island Sound or the Saugatuck River, according to P&Z Director Larry Bradley. Many owners of the properties affected by the reconfigured flood zones could face new flood insurance rates.  The new Westport flood zones, based on digital mapping, comprise part of a broader flood map revisions of coastal areas in Connecticut performed by FEMA during the last year, according to Bradley.

FEMA's latest round of flood zone changes is a more ambitious project compared to the last set of FEMA flood map changes in Westport, which only affected between 200 to 300 properties.

"Now they haven't only changed the unit of measure, but they've changed the measurement of the flood levels," Bradley said. "Before, you had to be 10 feet above the flood level. Now you have to be 11 feet above the flood level."

Town residents who are not planning to make major changes to their properties will not have to alter their homes to comply with the new flood maps. New residential construction, however, will have to meet FEMA's new standards.

"If you do any kind of construction on your home, you're going to have deal with the issue," Bradley said. "But if you're going to live in your house and not make any changes, you don't have to deal with it."

In the new maps, about 20 Westport properties have been added to 100-year flood zones, also known as Special Flood Hazard Areas, while about 40 properties have been taken out of those zones, according to the P&Z Department.

"I think those are more corrective issues," Bradley said of the change in properties included in 100-year flood zones. "I don't think those numbers really give any trend one way or another."

Between 2,500 and 3,000 residential and commercial properties in Westport -- about one-third of all properties in town -- are within 100-year flood zones, according to Bradley.  FEMA's new maps reflect a move by the agency to adopt more stringent flood zone regulations, Bradley noted.

"After Hurricane Katrina, they realized that a lot of those old models for flooding needed to be updated," he said. "They've gotten a lot more restrictive about what they want people to do in terms of elevating their buildings."

The new flood maps could also help town residents' preparations for another major flooding event, such as Tropical Storm Irene, which inundated much of Westport when it struck the Connecticut coast last August.

"If people's houses are more elevated, then there's less chance of damage," Bradley said.

The new flood maps are scheduled to be enforced by May 2013, according to the P&Z Department. Before then, property owners will be able to submit data to FEMA during a "public comment" period that runs until Sept. 6 if they want to contest flood map changes affecting their properties or to appeal the accuracy of the general mapping process.  A public hearing about the flood map changes will likely be held in Westport early next year, before the new maps take effect, Bradley added.

The average flood insurance policy costs about $600 per year, according to FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program website. Homeowner insurance policies usually do not cover flood damage, the website adds.

"Grandfathering" options are available from the National Flood Insurance Program for properties mapped into 100-year flood zones, according to the P&Z Department.

How is Weston affected?  "About Town" attended a meeting in Westport previously, and we thought we heard that only along town lines and where the difference between  old maps and new digital ones caused technical conflicts (because the major FEMA $$ was devoted to work on conflicts that are in the COASTAL areas, not inland ones) would there be problems.  THANK YOU e-Norwalk HOUR for original heads-up, WestportNow for the story below.

New FEMA Maps Add 73 Westport Homes to Flood Zone
Posted 07/21/2008 at 06:09 PM

UPDATE Seventy-three Westport homeowners are in for a surprise—the federal government has declared that their properties are in a flood zone. (See a list of the properties at the end of this article. Click here to download a map (PDF).)

The revelation is the result of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) updating its Westport flood zone maps, Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley said today.

About 2,000 or 20 percent of Westport’s 10,000 properties are in a flood zone.

The updated maps show 73 homes not previously designated to be in a flood zone to be in a flood zone and about 200 homes that previously were designated to be in a flood zone no longer in a zone, according to P&Z staff members.

“This action was based upon new digital mapping that FEMA has prepared and will become effective early next year,” said Bradley.

He said flooding is the most frequent and costly natural disaster in Westport.

Shortly after Bradley’s announcement, the National Weather Service in Upton, N.Y. issued a coastal flood advisory for Westport from 7 p.m. today to 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The risk for flooding changes over time due to erosion, land use, weather events and other factors, Bradley said.  The likelihood of inland, riverine and coastal flooding has changed along with these factors.

The risk for flooding can vary within the same neighborhood and even property-to-property, Bradley said.  But it exists throughout the area.  Knowing your flood risk is the first step to flood protection, he said.

Just released for public review, the new maps--also known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)--reflect current flood risks, replacing maps that are up to 25 years old, Bradley said.

As a result, property owners throughout Westport will have up-to-date, reliable, Internet-accessible information about flood risk, on a property-by-property basis, he said.

Following in question and answer format is additional information about the new maps, as supplied by the town’s Planning and Zoning Department:

How will these changes affect you?

To find out if your property has been mapped into a higher risk zone, known as a Special Flood Hazard Area, and shown as “A”, “AE” or “V” on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps, see the list below or contact the Planning and Zoning Office at (203)341-1076.

If you have a mortgage from a federally-regulated lender and the building(s) on a parcel within the Special Flood Hazard Area, then by federal law, your lender must require you to carry flood insurance when these flood maps become effective.

Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally underwritten program provided by nearly 100 insurance companies and written through licensed insurance agents.

Contact your insurance agent to learn about lower-cost “grandfathering” options offered by the NFIP for properties being mapped into higher-risk areas for the first time.

If you do not have a mortgage, it is still recommended that you purchase flood insurance.  Over the life of a 30-year loan, there is about a three times greater chance of having a flood in your home than having a fire.

Most homeowners’ insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage due to flooding.  For more information on flood insurance, visit the National Flood Insurance Program’s Web site, www.floodsmart.gov.

If you feel there has been an error, can you file a protest or appeal?

The maps that were just released are still known as preliminary. Until Sept. 16, there will be a public comment period. This is a time when citizens will have the opportunity to submit technical and/or scientific data to file a protest regarding their individual property, or an appeal regarding the accuracy of the mapping process in general.

When do the maps become effective?

Once the appeals and protests are reviewed and once any needed map changes are incorporated, FEMA will issue a Letter of Final Determination.  Six months later, a zoning regulation will be proposed to adopt the new Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map. The maps will then become effective, as will any new flood insurance requirements.

However, residents should be aware that starting immediately these flood hazard maps will be used in helping to determine requirements for construction and development.

Where can I get more information?

For general information about the flood map modernization project, contact the Planning and Zoning Office at (203)341-1076.  The office is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.


Here is the list of the properties newly designated in flood zones as provided by the Planning and Zoning Department:

205 Bayberry Lane
1 Beachside Ave.
95 Beachside Ave.
6 Blue Ribbon Drive
8 Blue Ribbon Drive
10 Broad St.
2 Burnham Hill
14 Cardinal Lane
15 Cardinal Lane
3 Carriage Lane
71 Cavalry Road
4 Cedar Pond Road
60 Compo Road South
3 Covlee Drive
6 Covlee Drive
33 Edgewater Hillside
35 Edgewater Hillside
17 Gault Ave.
0 Greens Farms Road
101 Greens Farms Road
128 Greens Farms Road
2 Half Mile Common
1 Harborview Road
3 Harborview Road
35b Hiawatha Lane
3 Hide-Away Lane
70 High Point Road
90 Hillandale Road
202 Hillspoint Road
4 Hooper Road
112 Imperial Ave.
0 Jennie Lane
6 Jennie Lane
14 Jennie Lane
20 Jennie Lane
22 Jennie Lane
24 Jennie Lane
26 Jennie Lane
28 Jennie Lane
0 Jesup Road
61 Jesup Road
15 Ketchum St.
14 Kirock Place
1a Longview Road
3 Lost. Lodge Road
177 Main St.
0 Mayflower Parkway
0 Mayflower Parkway
5 Mayflower Parkway
20 Morningside Drive South
0 Narrow Rocks Road
27 Narrow Rocks Road
0 New Creek Road
143 Post Road East
155 Post Road East
12 Richmondville Ave.
37 Richmondville Ave.
6 River Lane
8 River Lane
10 River Lane
14 River Lane
8 Robin Hill Road
16 Silent Grove North
18 Silent Grove North
22 Silent Grove North
87 Turkey Hill Road South
91 Turkey Hill Road South
9 Violet Lane
15 West Branch Road
29 Woody Lane
31 Woody Lane
8 Yankee Hill Road

Officials: Development adds to water woes
Greenwich TIME
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published March 3 2007

Bigger houses and larger paved surfaces might have had something to do with the way many areas typically not known to flood were left inundated yesterday by the 3.6 inches of rain that fell in just 12 hours, some land-use officials said.

"The highest concentration of calls we received were in areas where development is ongoing," said Michael Chambers, the acting executive director of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency. "They remove trees, they create larger homes, tennis courts and other amenities. The end result is what happened today. When you replace natural ground cover, natural vegetation with impervious surface, the end result is flooding."

Two compliance officers from the wetlands agency were busy yesterday fielding calls and making visits to residents who believe wetlands violations might have led to flooding problems.

"Most of the calls we received today were in areas in the center of town, just above the Post Road, 1-acre zones where development is fairly clustered," Chambers said.

When developers build houses, the land is replaced with pavement and other impervious surfaces that do not absorb stormwater. To make sure this water does not flood the surrounding area, engineered stormwater systems are built to carry off the water. Sometimes those systems fail or are deluged with more stormwater than they can handle, causing the water to back up and flood the surrounding area.

"People who develop their property now are understanding the importance of stormwater management," Chambers said.

Another factor that might have contributed to the flooding was the frozen topsoil that prevented the rainwater from soaking in, allowing the water to accumulate on lawns as if the surface were asphalt pavement, said Conservation Director Denise Savageau.

"In places where there are lawns, we are just seeing complete runoff," she said, adding that is one of the reasons she advocates for the preservation of meadows, which have crevices capable of holding stormwater, rather than turning them into flat lawn areas more susceptible to this problem.

Certainly the amount of water that fell within the short period of time also was a factor. At the peak of the storm, nearly an inch fell between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

"It just came in so fast," Savageau said. "It was the sheer volume in the amount of time, it's one of those things you really don't have any control of."

Both Chambers and Savageau said this is not the first time the town has seen development exacerbate flooding conditions. In fact, the situation could get worse as the area continues to be developed.

"We actually could see more occurrence of it if we have more development of our watershed," Savageau said. "Even though we have frozen ground conditions that are problematic, we still could see how bad it would be if we had full development."

New Maps Put Some Hartford-Area Properties In Flood Zones
By JOSH KOVNER And ANN MARIE SOMMA | Courant Staff Writers
August 22, 2008
Some property owners who never had to think about flood insurance soon will feel a tug on their wallets.

Hartford area communities are rolling out reconfigured flood maps, and some properties are now included in a flood plain for the first time. Mortgage holders will require the property owners to have flood insurance by Sept. 26, when the new maps go into effect throughout Hartford County.

If property owners buy insurance before the deadline, they will be "grandfathered" in at a significantly lower rate. That's because the properties will not be in designated flood zones before Sept. 26. A grandfathered rate for a typical single-family home with a full basement would be roughly $350 to $500 a year for $250,000 in structural coverage and $100,000 for its contents, said Paul Morey of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. After the first year, that rate would rise to $1,300 or $1,400 a year for the same coverage because the properties would then be in flood zones, which are considered high risk for insurance purposes.

But property owners who lock in before the Sept. 26 deadline will never pay the full freight — about $2,500 a year for those living in a zone around a river, Morey said. Coverage would cost even more in coastal areas.

Such is life after Hurricane Katrina, as FEMA asks cities and towns nationwide to redo 1980s-era maps with help from new satellite imagery that more accurately gauges topography, elevation and, ultimately, risk. In Connecticut, Middlesex County has largely completed the new mapping and Hartford County is doing it now and is to finish before Sept. 26. Fairfield and New Haven counties are next.

Property owners can visit FEMA's map service website at www.msc.fema.gov and plug in an address to view the new flood plain maps. Also, town engineers and planners throughout the Hartford area are answering property owners' questions.

Flood plains are areas around bodies of water that would flood in a 100-year storm — a deluge with a 1 in 100 chance of occurring in any year. The last one in Hartford was in 1984.

The new flood-plain boundaries — the area in which property owners are required to have flood insurance — are slightly different on the new maps in several Hartford area communities. In West Hartford, the newly drawn lines include about 250 properties that weren't in a flood zone before. Conversely, about 250 properties that were in a flood zone aren't any longer, though many of those are still on the edge and could be required by a private lender to retain insurance. The town has hired a company to put together a list of affected owners, and they'll be contacted within the next two weeks, Town Engineer David Kraus said. West Hartford has set a public hearing for Sept. 23 on the new mapping.

Towns can restrict development in a flood plain, and property owners in these zones would need special permission to add a deck, shed or anything that alters the property.

In Wethersfield, a few hundred property owners may be required to purchase flood insurance. Town officials are urging residents to consult the new maps posted on the town's website (wethersfieldct.com/government/maps/fema-flood-zones) to determine if they now live in a flood zone. Hard copies of the maps are also available in the town's planning and zoning office.

"Our staff is available to assist residents in looking up their property on the maps, but it is ultimately up to them to investigate," said Peter Gillespie, the town's director of planning and economic development. The town will hold a public hearing at town hall on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. to implement the new zoning regulations. Residents are encouraged to attend to learn about the redrawn maps.

In Rocky Hill, which sits on the west bank of the Connecticut River, the new maps affect only a few residents because the river's flood elevation dropped since the last time the maps were adopted in 1980, Town Engineer Jim Sollmi said.

"There hasn't been any real change. It's almost status quo," Sollmi said.

FEMA is also looking at levees more closely than ever. For Hartford and East Hartford, that means that areas behind the Connecticut River levees, once deemed to be at no risk of flooding, are now considered low- to moderate-risk flood zones. The federal government doesn't require flood insurance in these areas — but FEMA is recommending it, and a private lender could require it.

For Hartford, the new zone covers 20 percent of the city's land area — generally South Meadows, North Meadows and the eastern portion of downtown, from Columbus Boulevard to the river. In East Hartford, the new zone takes in a good deal of the town, from Green Terrace to the north, west though Great River Park and Commerce Center, east to Main Street and the area behind town hall, and finally out to Brewer Street in the southeast, Town Engineer Nick Casparino said.

This is the case even though the levees on both sides of the river are provisionally certified by the feds and millions of dollars in repairs have been made. The levees are on track for permanent certification by the Army Corps of Engineers — in July 2009 for Hartford, and March 2010 for East Hartford.

On the old maps, there's no indication that the areas were protected by levees or in any danger of flooding; now, said Hartford City Engineer John McGrane, the draft maps show a zone emanating from the river called "shaded area X."

That new delineation, McGrane said, suggests that FEMA doesn't fully trust levees anymore. He said the federal government used to assume levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers were infallible. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 blew that assumption away.

"It's somewhat of a strange scenario," McGrane said, noting that the levees are probably stronger now, with all the repairs, than they were when the old maps were indicating no risk at all. "It's a more conservative approach by FEMA, all driven by Katrina. They're learning from the things that went wrong in New Orleans."

Did you know that CT DEP links to ESRI (and if you tell ESRI your private information [i.e. name, country of residence, telephone number and ZIP], which they will use commercially, their G.I.S. software is free)?
FEMA AND CTDEP - http://www.ct.gov/dep

"About Town" attended meeting in Westport Town Hall Monday, May 12, 2008, from 1:30-3:30pm, where coastal communities were brought up to date on changes to flood insurance lines (eg. 100-yr storm even up to 500-yr flood-storm;  the April 2007 event that took out Cartbridge was greater than a 100-yr storm event).  Engineers, planners and consultants attended from Greenwich thru Bridgeport (Fairfield had a lot to say about dunes).  Stamford was concerned about levees.

For Weston, this was not a necessary meeting to attend because we aren't Coastal (global warming may kick in some day, but not yet).  For us, nothing has changed EXCEPT for the fact that the maps will be more precise than the existing paper maps - the same as those on the NEMO/CLEAR website from UCONN/manipulation of these aereal photos.  The data for demarcating different flood areas, a copy to be given in paper to each town (U.S.G.S. quads for the town) of new boundaries, will be the same for Weston.  "New" boundaries are made only at Town lines for adjustments of demarcation lines by Legend-identified classes of flood surges. 

I believe the topo lines used in the new maps are 2-foot contours in overlay...but more will be known by September, when FEMA and CT DEP conduct formal public hearings (which then give Coastal communities 90 days to appeal);  everyone gets to question plain old mistakes for @4 months.

After final approval, towns will have to amend flood zone regs, maps, etc.  It was suggested that these Federal guidelines are minimal and new regs might want to be stricter - 2-feet above base flood instead of one.  It was noted by FEMA that banks will be requiring flood insurance for some properties that will now be within flood zones.  CT DEP had some good suggestions about this.  By virtue of better mapping techniques, some properties will be in and some out - it will be up to property owners to find out for themselves (or just wait for their bank to notify them about the need for flood insurance).

Individuals who presented were:  David Knowles, P.E., hydrologist, FEMA mitigation division;  Carla Feroni, environmental analyst (3), bureau of water protection and land reuse, inland water resources division;  Sal Longo, P.E., civil engineer, Roald Haestad, Inc and others.

Flood maps may affect insurance
Greenwich TIME
By Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/12/2008 02:32:10 AM EDT

Some homeowners here and elsewhere in Fairfield County may find their neighborhoods categorized at a higher risk of flooding when federal officials unveil revised flood maps tomorrow.

When storms are expected town emergency planners use the maps to determine what streets and areas require evacuation or other measures, based on the topography and the magnitude of the expected storm, town Emergency Operations Management Coordinator Daniel Warzoha said.

"This is an important tool for towns, homeowners and insurance companies for guidance," Warzoha said of the maps. "Both the municipality and the homeowners are going to get a look and have a chance for comment."

Flood insurance rates are tied in part to map information.

The proposed updated maps are a collaboration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and private contractors, and should be a more accurate gauge of flood risk than the current set of maps created in the early 1990s, said Wayne Sanford, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Management.

One anticipated improvement will be that the scale of the maps will be standardized, a shortcoming of the current set of maps which can make them difficult to decipher, Sanford said.

Extensive development in the state since the late 1980s could also prompt engineers working on the maps to recategorize some areas as more prone to floods, Sanford said.

"Since the 1980s, when work began on the last maps, so much construction has taken place which may cause changes," Sanford said. "The other benefit of a more accurate map for homeowners is they will be able to figure out if they have been paying for flood insurance and don't need it."

A copy of the revised maps will be reviewed by Warzoha and other Fairfield County emergency planners at a public meeting at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Westport Town Hall at 110 Myrtle Ave.

FEMA will make a decision on adopting the maps after planners and other emergency agencies weigh in.

Anthony MacLeod, chairman of the town's Flood and Erosion Control Board, said interest in controlling severe flooding and making necessary changes to prevent it has grown since last April's Tax Day nor'easter.

FEMA declared the nor'easter a disaster last May and agreed to assist municipalities, such as Greenwich, as well as residents to repair roads, homes and other facilities.

"There have been a lot of studies dating to the 1970s and 1980s about flooding in Greenwich but the information is out of date," MacLeod said. "It's a very important topic to a lot of people to know whether or not they are in the flood plain."

Among areas of town prone to flooding are Old Greenwich, low-lying areas of Byram and Pemberwick and parts of Cos Cob.

Don't Trash FEMA, Fix It
Hartford Courant editorial
May 5, 2006

Three separate investigations of the government response to Hurricane Katrina have confirmed what was obvious to all who read the newspapers or watched television during those dark days in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, screwed up. It was joined in incompetence by the Homeland Security secretary, the White House and local authorities, namely New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Even so, that's no reason to demolish FEMA and replace it with yet another potentially unwieldy and untested bureaucracy just in time for the new hurricane season. With respect to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and his colleague Susan M. Collins of Maine, who have made such a proposal, FEMA needs strengthening, not reinventing.

The agency started by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 to streamline government response to natural disasters did its job well. Only when it was absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security did the wheels come off.

The New Orleans disaster, in which the hurricane damage was compounded by unprecedented flooding, was the first major test of FEMA's mettle after it went from a freestanding entity to part of the massive new agency. In addition to responding to natural disasters, FEMA became part of the nation's anti-terror machinery. Not only were its traditional role and resources diluted by the focus on terror, the agency was run by a director who had limited qualifications for the job, including no emergency preparedness experience.

Sens. Lieberman and Collins want the new bureaucracy, dubbed the National Preparedness and Response Authority, to remain part of Homeland Security, but to report directly to the president in times of disaster. Its key responsibilities would be preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. It would feature regional "strike forces" to better coordinate with local officials.

This sounds a lot like the "retooling" that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has undertaken to cure FEMA's failings. He has moved to beef up leadership by replacing Mr. Brown and other senior officials with professional disaster managers, fix the communication system and ensure rapid delivery of emergency supplies.

Mr. Lieberman rejects the idea of breaking off the disaster response agency from its hydra-headed home and making it a free-standing entity. "Katrina made it clear we need more integration in federal preparedness, not less," said the senator.

What FEMA needs is what has worked in the past: dedicated leadership by people with know-how and common priorities, better communication, adequate resources and a direct pipeline to the president.

This scene is of the Five Mile River in a previous year's flooding.

In recent months flooding is down, but attention is up
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
August 26, 2008

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials asked Fairfield County residents and leaders for help Monday afternoon in tackling flooding on a regional basis.

"Flooding needs to really be looked at from a systems perspective. It's very easy to solve one problem and transmit the problem someplace else," said John R. Kennelly, chief of planning for the New England District of the Army Corps. "You really need to look at flooding from a larger perspective."

About 75 people, including residents and elected officials from throughout Fairfield County, attended the Army Corps of Engineers Flood Summit Meeting in the Community Room of Norwalk City Hall.

U.S. Rep. Christopher R. Shays, R-4, arranged the meeting.

"We've been dealing with some incredibly difficult flooding situations all around Fairfield County," Shays said. "What we are looking to do is to begin to get the Corps to treat the greater Fairfield County as one site, to get all of us to coordinate together how we deal with this flooding, and to help me in our effort to make sure we're putting our priorities where they should be."

In Fairfield County, the Army Corps hopes to move forward with reconnaissance work, feasibility studies and projects to reduce flooding. The regional approach, in practice, will produce multiple studies of rivers and watersheds rather than of flooding in individual communities.

Reconnaissance work, paid for by the Army Corps, typically takes a year. Feasibility studies require a 50 percent cost share from the local community, include detailed engineering and design analyses, and can take 18 months to three years to complete, according to Kennelly.

The pace depends, in part, on residents sharing their experiences, according to Eugene Brickman, deputy chief of planning for the New York District of the Army Corps.

"What is the real nature of the problem? Do you have photographs? Do you have damage estimates?" Brickman said.

Moving forward with flood-correction projects ultimately requires money from Washington, D.C. The federal government pays 65 percent of the cost of such projects. The sponsoring community must come up with the remaining 35 percent, either locally or through the state, according to the Army Corps.

Norwalk Mayor Richard A. Moccia labeled landing funding the greatest hurdle.

"The difficulty is always when it comes to funding," Moccia said. "Finances are stretched."

At the forum, residents and elected officials named flood-prone brooks and rivers in their communities.

In recent years, West Norwalk residents living along The Five Mile River have been hit hard by flooding. Last year, elected officials brought Army Corps representatives to the banks of the river to speak with property owners and discuss possible solutions.

Those same residents are pleased that a plan may be in the works but fear it will come too late.

"It's not a question of 'if.' It's a question of 'when.' We've had a few big storms but we haven't had a huge storm," said Molly Walsh, who lives on McKendry Court. "What's going to happen over the next three years? Are we going to make it to the point we might be getting federal dollars?"

Officials from Greenwich to Bridgeport concurred that flooding problems stem, in part, from houses having been built years ago in low-lying areas.

From there, flooding issues vary from municipality to municipality.

Darien officials put forward a plan to correct flooding near the Heights Road culvert -- an undersized outlet beneath the Metro-North Railroad tracks and Interstate 95. The application was denied by the state Department of Environmental Protection, according to First Selectwoman Evonne M. Klein.

"This is a complex project, because the area itself is densely developed," Klein said. DEP officials "recognized the challenges of the particular application. ... We are in the process of working on two other alternatives."

In Bridgeport, a plan to mitigate flooding along Ox Brook, which leaves three feet of standing water in streets during heavy rains, is stalled, according to state Rep. Jack Hennessey, D-127. He said the legislature allocated $1 million to advance the plan. DEP officials certified the plan.

"One of the things holding it up is a flood retention pond, in which we have to purchase the properties, and we are still trying to negotiate with the owners," Hennessey said.

Floodwaters in Venice Begin to Recede
December 3, 2008

ROME — Floodwaters in Venice began to subside on Tuesday after reaching their highest point in 22 years on Monday, forcing residents and tourists alike to stay inside or venture out in hip-waders.

On Tuesday morning, waters had dropped to 39 inches, down from a high of 61 inches on Monday, the fourth-highest flood level in contemporary history, Venice’s Tide Center said.

“We sent out another warning about very high tides this morning,” said Leonardo Cossutta, who runs the center’s control room. He said transportation was returning to normal, although some canal ferries, or vaporetti, were forced to take alternative routes because they could not fit under the bridges. A transport union called off a planned strike because of the floods.

This week’s flooding reached the highest levels since 1986 but were still below the record of 76 inches reached in 1966. Venice sets the flood level at 40 inches.

The waters rapidly flooded into shops and homes early Monday morning. They engulfed the cafe tables in St. Mark’s Square and forced its famous pigeons to find higher ground. In news photos, people waded through the streets in high boots.

Because the water levels rose so quickly, the city was unable to erect the wooden platforms it uses to help pedestrians traverse the high waters. On Monday, the city sounded alarms, urging residents to stay indoors.

Venice routinely floods several times a year, but in recent years the phenomenon has worsened. Experts say global warming is the main culprit. The flooding reopened a running debate on the “Moses” project, a controversial system of offshore dams designed to prevent such flooding.

Work began on the $5.5 billion project five years ago and is expected to be completed around 2011. Had the dam system been in place, “it would have prevented what happened yesterday and also today,” said Flavia Faccioli, a spokeswoman for the state consortium that is building the dams.

Some environmental groups oppose the project, calling instead for reduced carbon emissions. “We’ve seen for a long time that global warming presents problems for a city like Venice,” said Michele Bertucco, the president of the Veneto branch of Legambiente, an environmental organization.

The mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, said the project was moving forward, The Associated Press reported.