President declares flood a disaster

WASHINGTON (AP) – Twelve upstate New York counties that were badly damaged by recent severe storms and flooding will receive federal disaster aid, President Barack Obama said Friday.

Obama declared a major disaster exists in the counties and ordered the aid, which will be used to supplement state and local efforts to fix damage done by flooding that occurred between June 28 and July 4.

The counties eligible for federal funding are: Montgomery, Herkimer, Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Franklin, Madison, Niagara, Oneida, Otsego and Warren.

On his Facebook page Friday, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, issued a statement clarifying the meaning of the declaration.

“This means local governments in these counties are eligible for federal funds to alleviate the cost of emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities,” Gibson wrote. “However, the President and FEMA have not made a decision on Individual Assistance. IA is a critical piece of ensuring individuals affected have the resources they need to recover. Our New York delegation reaffirmed our support of IA in a letter to FEMA today and my office has been in contact with the White House explaining the necessity of this aid. I’ll be in Fort Plain [today] for an update on the ground, and will keep you up to date.”

Severe flooding caused by persistent rains damaged houses, closed roads and forced people to flee their homes in the Mohawk Valley on June 28. Heavy rains caused the Mohawk River to overflow its banks where it traverses the southern end of Herkimer County, 60 miles east of Syracuse. Fire officials said there was 2 to 3 feet of water on some streets in the village of Herkimer, and an elderly woman in Fort Plain was killed as her home was washed away.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he requested the federal aid after preliminary damage assessments by state and local authorities showed there was more than $32.7 million in damage to public infrastructure as a result of the storms and flooding in the region.

“Since June when the rain and floods ravaged many communities across the state, I said I would do everything I could to bring relief and aid to the citizens and communities that have been damaged so badly,” Cuomo said in a statement Friday night.

On Monday, Cuomo said he’d call the state Legislature back to address recent upstate New York flooding if the federal government declined to issue a disaster declaration.