PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — “It’s unbelievable really.” “I don’t understand that either.”
Those were the reactions of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday to the decision by FEMA to deny Pennsylvania’s request for disaster relief in the wake of the spring storms.
“We had a devastating season of rainfall, and flooding and landslides,” says Fitzgerald.
The problems started with unprecedented rain in February that continue into late April.
Flooding and landslides became almost daily occurrences through the spring. The worst being the slide that took out the Butler family’s home on Greenleaf Street, and the collapse of Route 30 in East Pittsburgh.
PennDOT estimates it had between 60-70 emergency locations it had to deal with to the tune of over $10 million.
Fitzgerald says Allegheny County Emergency Management pulled together the request to FEMA with almost $22 million in damage documented.
“They documented all the figures and went through every process with FEMA. We did what they asked us to do. I’m perplexed why they won’t help out,” Fitzgerald said.
Gov. Wolf, in April, said he felt the state had a good case for Federal help.
“I just don’t know why the federal government doesn’t want to join in that partnership. This is a big piece to have the federal government as partners in this effort to recover from disasters, and this was a real disaster. It was a weather-related event, it happens, and that’s what FEMA is supposed to be there for,” he said.
FEMA issued a statement to KDKA on Tuesday to explain its decision:
“Based on FEMA’s review of all of the available information available, it was determined that the damage identified in the request resulted from separate and distinct events, none of which were of the severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the Commonwealth and affected local governments. Therefore, it was determined that supplemental federal assistance was not necessary.”
Fitzgerald says that leaves the burden “on the local taxpayers. We’re not getting the support out of the federal government that we should be getting, so the state and local taxpayers will wind up paying.”
And the bills are still coming in.
The Greenleaf slide alone has costs the City of Pittsburgh $590,000, and the repair work is ongoing. With that cleanup will come more costs.
It’s not over not by a longshot, but at least the local municipalities know now there won’t be any help coming from Washington DC.