Disaster aid sought by Ehrlich

Request targets 5 counties hit hard by recent storms

October 01, 2004|By Andrew A. Green and Ted Shelsby | Andrew A. Green and Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. requested federal disaster relief yesterday for five counties that suffered severe wind and flood damage from the remnants of hurricanes Ivan and Frances last month.

If the Federal Emergency Management Agency and President Bush approve the aid, residents of Allegany, Cecil, Frederick, Harford and Washington counties will be eligible for grants and loans to help rebuild damaged homes and businesses, said John Droneburg, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Damage surveys by MEMA officials found more than 300 homes and businesses that were affected by flooding, tropical storm-force winds or tornadoes. Five of them were destroyed, and 35 sustained major damage.

In the Cecil County community of Port Deposit, the remnants of Hurricane Ivan caused $1 million in damage, including about $600,000 in damage to the Susquehanna River town's water and sewage plant, said Major Robert Flayhart.

Flooding from the storm also damaged basement furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators and other electrical appliances and buried roads and a municipal parking lot in mud.

Harford County officials have not determined the dollar value of the storm damage in that area, but County Executive James M. Harkins said tornadoes there "destroyed and damaged homes and left hundreds of trees either downed or in danger of falling."

"We are very thankful that there was no one seriously hurt when the storms hit," he added, "but I spoke with one Whiteford family who had been inside their home when the winds flattened the house, and it was miraculous they escaped with just some scratches."

State inspectors found the worst damage in Allegany County, where residents have been hit with repeated flooding.

In a statement yesterday, Ehrlich called the request for disaster relief "the best course of action to assist this area and make federal resources available to them."

Ehrlich also asked the federal government for statewide disaster mitigation assistance, including money to restore streambeds or elevate houses in flood-prone areas.

Droneburg said Maryland has a clear-cut case for low-interest Small Business Administration loans, which can be used to rebuild homes and businesses, but requirements for the FEMA grants are more restrictive, making it more difficult to predict whether the state's application will be successful.

The state is still tallying storm losses.

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