The Public Works and Police departments have been working nonstop to assist villagers. Assistance has come from federal, state and local levels, but a FEMA home-buyout program would be welcomed.
(TNS) — Gardner Street in the village looked better than it did one week ago after an extreme flooding event hit the Mohawk Valley – but that appearance is just skin deep.
Gone are the mounds of treasured possessions saturated in dirt and piled high by the roadside of nearly every home. Nearly gone are the layers of mud, the sounds of water pumps working overtime and heavy machinery of all kinds removing debris. Utility crews remained, though, as did restoration crews from furnace installation to home repair.
Residents hit hard by the Halloween night flooding were less visible but several continued to patch up their homes and property with the look of worry — but hardly defeated.
Vanessa De Jesus spent the week trying to get her Gardner Street home back to normal but she still has a long road ahead.
"They're putting in a new furnace and hot water tank today," she said Friday. "We're still not back in our home yet. We hired two restoration companies this week and nobody showed up. It's so hard to get contractors as everyone needs so much assistance."
Tired and wishing for some sort of normalcy, De Jesus echoed the statement from her interview last week.
"I can't afford to go on like this — I'm petrified. It's my fifth time flooded, and it's past time for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to buy us out," she said.
De Jesus said she had to take time off work unpaid this week, which puts her further in the hole. She said he applied for assistance but didn't get much help as she has flood insurance.
"It's almost as if we're penalized because we had that," she said, adding that she still hasn't received a thing from the insurance company.
Despite the devastation to her residence, De Jesus said she felt "almost lucky" as there were many in the neighborhood and in the village who "lost everything."
Whitesboro was hit hard in many areas.
"We took people out with water up to their throats," said Whitesboro Mayor Robert Friedlander on Wednesday as he spoke about rescue efforts.
Friedlander said the village Department of Public Works and police department have been working nonstop to assist villagers. Assistance has come from federal, state and local levels but Friedlander said he would welcome FEMA stepping in with a home-buyout program.
"These people need salvation from their homes ... People can't keep getting flooded time after time," he said.
The state had set up six Disaster Assistance Service Centers in Oneida and Herkimer counties last week. Residents still can report damage and request services through 211. According to officials Saturday, many of those centers have extended their hours through Tuesday, as well as other days throughout later in the week.
As of Wednesday, Friedlander said that more than 150 houses are known to have been impacted by floodwaters. He said there currently isn't a dollar estimate on the damage, but so far, he knows of more than a dozen houses that are completely unsalvageable.
Several of those can be found on Wind Place in the village.
Walking down Wind Place, the sight of police tape and codes notices dot the landscape. The entire neighborhood was hit hard, leaving homes devastated.
"This structure is unsafe and its occupancy has been prohibited by the Code Enforcement officer," a notice taped to several front doors states.
One of the homes that saw heavy flooding, but not to the point of closure, had wood and garbage bags piled 4 feet high by the side of the road. Next to the pile was a ServPro cleanup and restoration van.
"We're getting rid of the damage and moisture before the mold sets in," said Scott Spencer, who lives there with homeowner Heather Livigni. "And they're still working on heat and hot water."
Spencer said it was his first flood event but it has been multiple for Livigni. He didn't think she could survive another experience.
This was her seventh time, he said.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, was seen surveying the damage Friday on Wind Place and sent a statement via email.
"The village of Whitesboro has seen devastating flooding for too many years and the damage is heartbreaking. I'm coordinating with local, county, state, and federal officials to try and make this community whole. We are going to do everything we can to get Whitesboro and all impacted communities the resources they need. Right now, the best thing for residents to do is report their property damage to their county."
While the loss to Livigni's home was substantial, which Spencer spoke to in detail, he was quick to redirect the conversation — to his neighbors.
"My heart goes out to every one of them," he said as he pointed to two homes in particular that he said were condemned. "These people moved in less than a year ago and now they've lost everything. Everyone wants out."
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