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FEMA Teams Assessing Flood Damage
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Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have fanned out across Connecticut this week assessing damage to towns and homes from last week’s floods. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, their findings will be key in whether the state can declare a disaster area and claim federal aid.

A FEMA team makes a house call in North Stonington where last week the Shunock Brook burst its banks and inundated nearby homes.

FEMA spokesman Richard Gifford says the agency in partnership with state officials aims to get a comprehensive picture of how Connecticut was affected.

"We’re here to tour the damage as it relates to federal assistance. We’re looking at homeowners and renters. The teams will be looking at threat to people’s health, the number of people displaced, the extent of their losses, and the number of primary homes."

This is a preliminary damage assessment which can be used by Governor Rell to ask the President to declare a disaster area. The teams are urging homeowners to take photos and video and keep receipts for all expenses related to flooding, which may be reimbursed if the declaration is made.

North Stonington resident Jonna Chokas says she thinks people aren’t aware how disaster aid is triggered.

"I’m relieved that they came to the house, because my initial concern was – do they even know that we’re here. It’s kind of like a grassroots organic effort where I’ve then tried to call people up and say 'get the form filled out' – because the FEMA folks need to know the extent of the damage is to the residents."

And on Mystic Road, the teams spot a homeowner canoeing out from his stranded house. Karl Kieburg’s home was untouched by the floods, but it’s sitting on an island.

"13 years I’ve been here – we’ve always seen water in the spring on the side of the driveway but the driveway’s always been dry."

Now his driveway is under almost three feet of water, and he’s had to resort to some unusual methods to get to work.

"Uh, well, the only way in and out is a canoe. In the afternoon I get to work by taking the canoe, and getting in my rental car, and going to work. And when I come home I have to go back the other way."

First Selectman Nick Mullane says there’s lot of people in town who’ve displayed similar ingenuity.

"People in North Stonington – we’re very proud of them – they’re very self dependent and self reliant, and a lot of times they don’t ask for help, or they don’t tell people they’ve had a problem, they just take care of it themselves."

But he says, with a severe hurricane season predicted for the fall, now’s the time to take advantage of extra help to prepare for what could be even worse weather ahead.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.