Baltimore City not yet approved for FEMA flood assistance

Baltimore was left out of an initial round of federal funding approved for parts of Maryland to rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure after floods ravaged the region in May.

President Donald J. Trump approved a disaster declaration in Maryland on Monday after late-May storms and flooding. Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County requested federal assistance to support recovery efforts, and Trump approved help for Baltimore and Howard counties.

But Baltimore’s application for federal assistance is still pending, and state and city officials are waiting to hear whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency needs further proof of destruction in the city. The FEMA will determine whether damage to the city’s public infrastructure was substantial enough to warrant federal aid.

“The good news is that it has not been denied,” said Chas Eby, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. Baltimore worked with the MEMA to submit its federal request.

The May 27 deluge destroyed Ellicott City’s Main Street, where a man was killed while trying to help a woman. The rainfall triggered flooding that also washed out roads and bridges in Baltimore County; and submerged parts of Southwest Baltimore under 7 feet of water.

Baltimore officials said it’s unclear why the city’s application has not yet been approved for FEMA assistance. Eby said his agency plans to meet with the FEMA this week to discuss next steps in the disaster declaration application.

The city and state can still submit additional documentation showing damages to Baltimore infrastructure, said Melissa Weihenstroer, a spokeswoman for the FEMA.

“It all depends on what was damaged — the extent of the damage in each of those counties and each of those areas,” she said.

Damage to infrastructure was estimated at $10.5 million in Howard County, $8.6 million in Baltimore County and $3 million in Baltimore.

In Baltimore, much of the destruction occurred on Frederick Avenue, a portion of which was under 7 feet of water May 27. The high water stranded motorists, flooded homes and displaced residents in Baltimore’s Beechfield neighborhood.

“The extent of the damage to the road in the area might not be immediately clear to some, but it was heavily damaged,” said David McMillan, Baltimore’s emergency management director.

McMillan said Tuesday he had not yet heard what else the FEMA needed from the city in its application for assistance, but said, “I’m hopeful that we’ll get it.”

The federal agency will cover 75 percent of the cost for repairs to public infrastructure in areas approved for assistance. Local governments must fund the rest.

In Howard County, FEMA funds will go toward Ellicott City’s recovery after the historic mill town flooded for the second time in less than two years. The county is still using funds it received from the agency to make repairs from the 2016 floods, including $1 million to expand a culvert on Main Street, County Executive Allan H. Kittleman said.

Kittleman said he was grateful to Trump’s administration for approving FEMA aid for the county, and thanked the Maryland congressional delegation and Gov. Larry Hogan for supporting Howard County’s request.

“It certainly will help us with our public infrastructure,” Kittleman said. “This will help us greatly deal with the cost of all the recovery that’s going on.”

FEMA assistance will help cover the costs of a range of projects, such as restoring a damaged section of New Cut Road and rebuilding Main Street intersections. The damage Ellicott City suffered in May was worse than in 2016.

Roads and bridges were also damaged in Baltimore County. Jay Ringgold, Baltimore County fire division chief and director of emergency management and homeland security for the county, said federal money will help with more expensive repairs as roads and bridges are reconstructed and widened to comply with current codes.

“It’s great to get the money,” Ringgold said. “That way we can plan on how we can do the rebuild.”

smeehan@baltsun.com

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