Work begins all over again to receive federal aid after floods


Early on the morning of Wednesday, January 10, Rhode Island was hit with its second significant flooding event in less than a month. This came just days after President Biden made FEMA assistance available for Rhode Islanders impacted by flooding which occurred in September of 2023.

In West Warwick, 35 people were evacuated from their homes following the overflow of Lippitt Brook. Homes, businesses, and roads across the state saw damage from the storm, which dropped four inches of rain and blew wind gusts up to 77 mph in some places. This was reminiscent of the flooding seen in Cranston in September, leaving the residents of Dean Estates without homes to go back to once the waters receded. Four months later, those residents can finally apply for FEMA assistance.

“Obviously we saw the forecast was happening,” Chief of Staff for Mayor Hopkins, Anthony Moretti said of their preparation for the storm in Cranston. “Major rains. After we were preparing for the snowstorm, we made an extra effort to make sure that we cleared the streets curb to curb to allow the drains to clear. As many drains as possible, so we were ahead of the game there.”

While what could be accomplished by the city in terms of mitigation or assistance with private property is limited, Moretti had nothing but praise for the city workers who have taken part in cleanup.

“We had payloads on the streets cleaning up debris that overflowed. Mud, trees, rocks, so the cleanup has been extraordinary,” Moretti said. “The efforts of the public works, parks and recreation crews, fleet maintenance, maintaining the vehicles, building maintenance. What they've done, justice superb effort.”

Governor McKee declared a state of emergency on Jan. 10, a vital step in opening up the state for more federal assistance. The application for that assistance will be the work of Rhode Island’s federal delegation to congress.

Senator Jack Reed has been keeping a close eye on the flooding. He said in an interview Monday  with the Herald, “At this point, the state of Rhode Island has to go ahead and do an assessment of recent damage, then apply to the federal government for disaster declaration. Once that’s signed, we're trying to get it expedited as quickly as possible.”

Reed stressed the value and significance of reporting flood damage. In a press release, he wrote: “I urge anyone who experienced flood damage to document it and report it to their local emergency management officials and I will continue working to deliver the maximum amount of federal funding for recovery and resilience efforts.”

Congressman Seth Magaziner told the Herald on Monday,  “We're doing everything we can to make sure that every federal resource that Rhode Island is eligible for is made available quickly. So we've already sent a letter to President Biden alerting him to the situation.”

Magaziner said federal assistance would come in a variety of packages, including “assistance for impacted small businesses to the SBA, including assistance for municipalities to reimburse the cost of public safety work.”

In terms of what can be done in the long term, Magaziner and Reed both said the only way to stem such flooding events in the future is through improving infrastructure across the state and stemming the tide of climate change.

Magaziner pointed out, “there was a lot of funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, to help with finding resiliency, to help with improving stormwater systems, to help with raising roads and bridges and preparing communities for climate change.”

“But of course it takes time,” he continues. “Infrastructure projects take time to execute on. And then we’ve got to also continue the work of transitioning to clean energy so that we can limit the impact of climate change. I serve on the House Natural Resources Committee, where I'm fighting to put policies in place to help the country move to clean energy in a swift way, including through offshore wind here and on the islands.”

State Director of Transportation Peter Alveti spoke with Tara Granahan at WPRO on the day of the flood, discussing how the rivers in the state are being affected by an excess of rain. In order to mitigate this flooding, Alveti said “we’d have to take all the houses and businesses and parking lots that were built in these watersheds and plant trees in their place. They restore the hydrology to when it was originally, pristine woodland. Every time we take a forest or a wetland and pave over it, it contributes to the flooding of these rivers and streams that then flow out the roadway.”

floods, river, water


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