Early This Morning, Extreme Flash Flooding Ravaged Communities Throughout New York City, Long Island, And The Hudson Valley – Devastating Homes, Flooding Schools, Shutting Down Roads, Suspending Subway Service And Threatening Lives
Schumer, Gillibrand: FEMA Needs To Mobilize NOW & Get Ready To Approve Any Requested Support For NYC, Hudson Valley And Long Island Communities and Residents Battered By Severe Flooding
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready to approve any request from New York State for an emergency or major disaster declaration following the severe flash flooding that rampaged through New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley today. A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter is attached. The senators explained that the region was initially hit by up to four inches of rain that caused flash flooding, but with even more rain expected throughout the rest of the day, the extreme flooding already shutting down the subway, creating impassable roads, and devastating infrastructure and is only expected to get worse putting millions of people at risk.
“Since early this morning, New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island have been battered by heavy downpours causing severe levels of flooding and widespread damage,” said Senator Schumer. “Already we are seeing roads look like rivers, schools flooded, and transportation infrastructure devastated. The damage will likely total millions of dollars in costs suffered taking months and months to repair. This catastrophic flooding has wreaked havoc on the New York City Metropolitan region impacting millions of people and with more rain expected to fall, FEMA needs to mobilize now and get ready if requested by New York State to swiftly approve any forthcoming requests from the state for assistance to help these communities recover.”
“Early this morning, New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley began experiencing heavy rainfall and subsequent flash flooding that continues to devastate these areas and their residents,” said Senator Gillibrand. “If deemed necessary, it is critical that these communities receive robust federal assistance to respond to the impacts of these floods. That is why we are calling on FEMA to stand ready to quickly approve any request from New York State, so that additional federal resources can be quickly provided to these communities.”
Schumer and Gillibrand explained that today’s 4 plus inches of rain follows days of previous rain, making this month the second wettest September in New York City history, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). These severe levels of rain have prompted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to suspend subway service on several lines in Brooklyn and across the city due to water on the tracks. Terminal A at LaGuardia International Airport is closed vehicle access was prohibited. Additionally, many roads are impassible due to flooding, and basement apartments in the city have flooded, damaging homes and threatening life and property.
New York State has now issued a State of Emergency for New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley due to the impacts of the flooding. With more even more rain expected to fall throughout the day and night, and tides making it difficult for rainfall to drain, Schumer and Gillibrand requested that FEMA actively prepare to issue an emergency or disaster declaration for the impacted communities, mobilize to support NY, and be prepared to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, should the state request it.
If a disaster declaration is declared, grant assistance would be made available to state and local governments, as well as certain non-profit organizations, to reimburse costs incurred for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. This funding is available on a cost-sharing basis; FEMA generally covers 75 percent of the eligible costs for permanent and emergency work. After any severe storm, the first step in the declaration process is for the state to request a Preliminary Damage Assessment, during which FEMA representatives join state, local, and other officials to survey damage across the flooded counties to help determine whether the cost of the disaster meets the criteria for a federal disaster declaration. Schumer and Gillibrand urged FEMA to be prepared to support any requests for aid from New York State.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the president to issue “Major Disaster” or “Emergency” declarations after catastrophes occur. These declarations unlock federal aid through FEMA that is broken into two broad areas: Individual Assistance (IA) that aids families and individuals, and Public Assistance (PA) that is mainly for response and repair work on infrastructure, such as debris removal and rebuilding roads and bridges. When assessing the degree of PA damage, FEMA considers six factors: estimated cost of the assistance, localized impact, insurance coverage, hazard mitigation, recent disaster, and programs of other federal assistance. Regarding the cost, FEMA has certain thresholds that have to be met to qualify for PA specific to the state and the counties in question.
A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter appears below:
Dear Administrator Criswell:
We write in strong support of communities in New York after the significant flooding events of the past day. We urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand ready, if requested, to work with affected counties and New York State to respond to the impacts of these floods and if the state requests it, to make assistance available through a disaster declaration as expeditiously as possible.
In the early morning of September 29, 2023, New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley region was hit by up to four inches of rain that has caused flash flooding, with additional rain expected throughout the rest of the day. New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency this morning for New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley due to the impacts of the flooding. Today’s rain follows days of previous rain, making this month the second wettest September in New York City history, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has suspended subway service on several lines in Brooklyn due to water on the tracks, many roads are impassible due to flooding, and basement apartments in the city have flooded, damaging homes and threatening life and property.
More heavy rain is expected today and the NWS has issued Flash Flood Warnings in parts of New York City and Long Island, affecting more than 8.5 million people. Meanwhile, most of New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley remain under a Flood Watch. These flood warnings cover approximately 25 million people in the New York metropolitan area. The NWS warned that the tri-state area faces a Level 3 of 4 “moderate” risk for flash flooding. With so many New Yorkers affected, we urge FEMA to stand ready to participate in a Preliminary Damage Assessment with state and local officials, should the state request it.
We are grateful for the prompt attention that the federal government has historically given in responding to disasters impacting New York State. In that spirit, we strongly urge you to approve any forthcoming requests for FEMA assistance from New York State as affected communities begin their recovery from these floods.