After applying for disaster assistance grants, it takes about a week for a FEMA inspector to check the damage. It takes another week before the homeowner gets a letter telling him how much money he will get. And then it's a few more days before the check arrives. The grant money is for temporary housing, emergency repairs to homes and for medical and dental needs.
By yesterday, 7,295 Maryland residents had applied for FEMA grants and about $2.8 million in funds had been disbursed, Sweet said. The agency's 250 inspectors in Maryland had assessed damage to more than 1,200 homes.
As part of its efforts to make sure residents are aware of the federal assistance programs, FEMA community relations teams are canvassing communities. "We are going door to door to make sure that everyone gets the word," Sweet said.
As upset as people are at their insurance carriers and federal officials, residents seem pleased with the swift response of local counties, charities and churches.
County to the rescue
Smith, for example, was cheered Thursday night at the same meeting at Sparrows Point High School where 500 residents crowded the auditorium to complain about the lack of help from federal agencies.
"They expected to go to the disaster recovery centers to get money, a place to stay, food and school supplies to replace what they lost. They were surprised when that didn't happen," Smith said.
Meanwhile, Baltimore County has already provided $17,000 worth of vouchers for residents for emergency needs, $4,750 in grants for such things as prescriptions and $25,000 in emergency lodging funds to 350 families, Smith said.
The county has also issued its first building permit already, and Smith said the county will be waiving the fee for the permits related to Isabel's damage on the eastern end of the county.
Still, Thomas Shaner, executive director of the Maryland Improvement Contractors Association, warns that repairs "aren't going to happen fast."
Shaner expects to wait four to six months for his three-bedroom house in Glen Arm to be repaired from the damage Isabel caused when wind uprooted a 150-foot oak tree, which came crashing through his roof.
Still, he advises anyone in a similar situation to take the time to get several estimates and to find a licensed contractor. Also, he said, "If you have a good contractor, they should be upfront about how long it could take."
Larry Norton, a 56-year-old La Plata furniture builder, agreed that it's worth it to get several estimates. His Cape Cod was lifted from its foundation by the tornado, forcing him to have his house rebuilt.
"We had a 20-second warning, and it was over in 20 seconds," said Norton, adding that it was nearly two months before construction began on his new house and nearly seven months before he and his wife, Liz, could move in.
Residents might hope their repairs are made as quickly as they were at the Naval Academy, where 400 workers swarmed over the waterfront campus in Annapolis to clean up, repair and reopen half its classrooms.
But the school's central air-conditioning plant might take months to repair, and the steam-vent pipes that heat the buildings and dorm rooms, weeks.
Anne Arundel County officials said damage has been preliminarily estimated at $500 million, with $2.5 million in Annapolis, including many shops and restaurants along the City Dock, such as the Market House.
"Residents shouldn't give up," Sweet said. "They need to keep trying. Help may come from the state or local governments, or even churches and volunteer organizations."
Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson, Lane Harvey Brown, Ryan Davis, Ariel Sabar and Jason Song contributed to this article.