FEMA team assesses flood damage in Cassville

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
DuWayne Tewes, left, FEMA Region 7 Incident Management Assistance Team leader, shares notes with Bryan Boka, FEMA team leader, as a group of about seven state and federal disaster management officials evaluated damage done to homes on Fair Street in Cassville during the July 7 and July 9 floods. Also pictured, and declining to be named, is a representative of the United States Small Business Administration. Kyle Troutman editor@cassville-democrat.com

Information to be used by governor in making disaster declaration

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent a handful of representatives to Cassville Thursday, and the group went to city property, homes and businesses in the area struck by floods on July 7 and July 9.

Barb Sterner, Region II external affairs specialist for FEMA who is based in Kansas City, said the group looked at 12 homes in the city, many on Fair Street, that saw water inside as high as two feet.

From left: David Compton, director of the Barry County Office of Emergency Management; a representative of the United States Small Business Administration who declined to be named; Bryan Boka, FEMA team leader; and George Lamperez, FEMA mitigation specialist; look at damage to a home on Fair Street in Cassville Thursday. Kyle Troutman editor@cassville-democrat.com

"We are looking at every house for damage from high water, and we'll make a determination about the state of each home," she said. "If the homeowner is not home for us to talk, we look around the property to see if siding is missing or for other impairments."

Sterner said a State Emergency Management Agency official was on hand to record the same information, which was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon and used in a disaster declaration issued Monday for 70 counties throughout the state, including individual assistance for 15 counties, of which Barry is one.

"The governor would send a letter to the president, [Barack Obama], that includes information about damages and costs," she said. "That information comes through the FEMA regional office in Kansas City, then to the Washington, D.C., office, and then to the White House. [Nixon] may ask for assistance for individuals and businesses, assistance for infrastructure, or for money for mitigation to prevent future damage."

Sterner said sometimes the process takes only a couple days, but since FEMA has observed damage in 60 counties statewide, she believes process may take a couple weeks.

"We've looked at 60 counties statewide and 10-12 counties for individual assistance," she said. "So, that's a whole lot of information."

According to a FEMA press release, Nixon ordered the public assistance preliminary damage assessments, and the public assistance program provides grants to state and local governments, and certain non-profit entities, to assist with response and recovery following a disaster. the program provides assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent restoration of infrastructure.

The individual assistance program provides assistance to individuals and households.

State agencies used information gathered through the two programs to determine if disaster recovery is within the state's capabilities, or whether federal disaster assistance s needed.

Steve Walensky, Cassville Public Works director, said FEMA and SEMA looked Thursday morning at damage to city property, including the bridge from the Aquatic Center to the Greenway Trail, the trail itself, the city park and the low-water bridge on 7th Street.

"I took them to the bridge by the Aquatic Center first, then we walked the trail to the city park and ended on 13th street, where water had crossed over and eroded the back end of that road," he said. "We are still working on preliminary estimates at this time, and our estimates need to be refined."

Walensky said the only hard number he provided the agencies was $120,000 in damage to the bridge on 7th Street going into the city park, but he said that estimate will need to be refined still.

"I gave them the linear feet for the fencing at the ballparks and [the weight in tons of] dirt and rock for the Greenway Trail, and that information will help them develop a dollar amount," Walensky said. "They were very complimentary about how precise we were in knowing what we needed to repair."

Walensky said he is still working on an estimate for the bridge by the Aquatic Center, as he is looking up the original installation cost from 10-15 years ago, then adjusting it for inflation.

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