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Carney files Ida disaster request as damages exceed $3M

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Flooding ravaged parts of Wilmington following Hurricane Ida. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY WILMINGTON

WILMINGTON – Gov. John Carney has requested a presidential disaster declaration for New Castle County, weeks after remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through northern Delaware, causing the Brandywine Creek to flood to historic levels and damaging more than 160 properties.

“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective recovery is beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments and that supplemental federal assistance is necessary,” Carney wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Sept. 17.

Carney’s request includes four major categories of assistance: Public and individual aid for New Castle County, Small Business Administration aid and Hazard Mitigation Program assistance statewide.

Initial estimates for individual assistance include just over $920,000 in housing assistance, such as property repairs and replacements from flood damage, and nearly $195,000 for other individual needs.

While no buildings were destroyed, 233 homes sustained either major or minor damage or were in some way affected by the flooding, according to a joint preliminary damage assessment conducted Sept. 6 by the city of Wilmington, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and state personnel. Of those homes, only 10% were insured, according to state officials.

Carney also asked for federal individual assistance for unemployment aid, case management, crisis counseling and medical, dental, childcare, funeral and other expenses, as well as assistance from the Small Business Administration and statewide Hazard Mitigation Program.

The request for a presidential disaster declaration includes all categories of public assistance for New Castle County. Officials estimated $2.5 million in damages to public infrastructure, culturally significant private nonprofits and costs related to emergency protective measures.

Of those impacted public areas are the Hagley Museum, where floodwaters spilled onto a “substantial” portion of the historic powder yard, and Brandywine Park, which “suffered extensive damage,” according to Carney.

The damage assessment was the first step in requesting federal emergency and long-term funds. While not a “fast process” according to officials from the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, New York and New Jersey were approved for a major disaster declaration in early September following the storm.

In his request, Carney noted that 200 people were rescued from floodwaters in the Riverside neighborhood. While Ida had weakened from a hurricane to a tropical depression by the time it reached the Mid-Atlantic, its origin and circulation still contained copious amounts of moisture, leading to increased rainfall.

Brandywine Creek rose to a record-breaking 23.14 feet, compared to its last high of 20.43 feet in 2014. The flood waters caused “considerable damage” to residential and commercial structures, Carney wrote, in eastern Wilmington and pockets along the Brandywine Creek from Talleyville through Edgemoor. Hundreds of cars were also totaled or damaged.

Wilmington officials, volunteers and organizations are continuing with cleanup efforts, collecting and distributing food, and providing homeowners with funding to restore gas service, complete electrical inspections and address electrical issues. DEMA officials are still conducting damage assessments.

Last year, following Tropical Storm Isaias, Carney requested a similar major disaster declaration, including individual, public and hazard mitigation program assistance. The state received hazard mitigation program assistance and New Castle and Kent counties were granted public assistance, but FEMA deemed the state ineligible for individual aid.

“While we hope that the requests are approved to provide needed assistance to the flood survivors, there are ultimately many factors involved in the decision,” a DEMA spokesperson said in an email.

FEMA will evaluate the validity of Carney’s request and determine how much assistance, if any, to provide Delaware.

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