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FEMA Begins Process of Assessing Michigan Flood Damage

Assessment teams are aware that the flooding has disproportionately impacted certain communities, so they will “also document specific characteristics” of each home, according to FEMA.

A flooded freeway in Michigan.
Floodwater continues to block sections of I-94 near the Livernois Avenue exit in Detroit on Monday, June 28, 2021.
Rodney Coleman-Robinson, Detroit
(TNS) - Local and federal government agencies are making their way around metro Detroit to as many homes affected by recent flooding as possible, talking to homeowners and recording data.

Several assessment teams made up of the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA), Michigan State Police-Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, the U.S. Small Business Administration and Wayne County officials started walking down the streets Thursday of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Detroit, conducting preliminary damage assessments.

"We really are trying to gather information at this point," said FEMA external sffairs officer Troy Christensen. "We are knocking on doors, we're talking to the homeowners, to the renters, and seeing what kind of damage they had."

Some of the data gathered includes the amount of water received in each household, appliances lost, essential living spaces affected and damaged walls.

Homeowners and renters were not aware of the visit prior to assessment teams showing up at their front door.

"What we hope to do is really gather all of this information and put it together in a report that we will give to ( Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer)," Christensen said. "And the next step in the process would be — if she decides to request disaster assistance from the federal government — she would make that request to the president."

Only a few minutes is spent at each residence. The teams do not enter the homes, but they take photos of the outside, look at photos of damages from the homeowners and ask questions to collect data.

"We also ask about insurance and whether there was either a sewer backup insurance, or if there was flood insurance in the property," Christensen said. "Just because they say they have insurance doesn't necessarily make them ineligible should there be a FEMA declaration down the road, but it's just something that we consider when we go house to house and look at the overall impact to a community."

Assessment teams are aware that the flooding has disproportionately impacted certain communities, so they will "also document specific characteristics" of each home, according to FEMA. Documentation will also include "disaster-related casualties" and available access to community resources.

Some small businesses that operate from home have been affected by the flooding, said Dale George with MSP, who is part of one of two Detroit assessment teams. Items and tools have been lost and the U.S. Small Business Administration is assisting in documenting the businesses affected.

The amount of time the preliminary assessments will take is still unclear, as Whitmer added Huron, Ionia and Washtenaw Counties to the state's emergency declaration, requesting assistance from FEMA, Thursday, George said. The estimate as of now is at least several days.

Not every home will be visited to complete the assessment, but every house affected, with documentation, should be eligible for assistance if a federal declaration is approved, according to FEMA.

Dearborn resident Camillia Maroue received a visit from FEMA but was still unsure about what happens next, she said. Her household just needs any assistance they could get.

Maroue received about 4 feet of water in her basement. The water went back down on its own, but left behind a lot of damage and debris.

"The drywall was all damaged, the wood behind it was all damaged, we lost our freezer and the drains were backed up with sewage that wouldn't go down," Maroue said. "The insurance only covered $5,000 worth of damage, but it's way more damaged because we lost everything down there."

The total damages in Maroue's home add up to about $20,000, she said. "We had to tear down the drywall, we have to redo it. We're actually working on it as we speak."

Joseph Smith Jr. of Detroit said he has never experienced flooding and damages to his house like this before.

"It came up to 5 feet," he said. "I lived here on Chalmers Street since 1965 and it has never flooded past our front steps, which is still deep enough to damage all the cars on the street, but this time it went all the way to the backyard."

In previous years, the maximum amount of flooding Smith said he had received in his basement was 6 to 8 inches. This time much more was damaged.

"We lost the boiler, hot water heater, washer, dryer, my son lost a shirt press, fax machine, bicycles, power tools. We had a pantry that we had stocked food in, we lost our paper towels, toilet paper," Smith said. "We need more assistance because we got to replace all the stuff that's in the basement. I mean, we're spending out of our pockets now but I would like to get reimbursed for it."

Smith estimated that his damages totaled about $7,000.

Even though not every home will be visited, an estimate of the total number of homes affected, degree of damage incurred, extent of insurance coverage, cause and concentration of damage and other factors will be included in the report, compiled over the next few days.

Contact Nour Rahal: nrahal@freepress.com and follow her on Twitter @nrahal1.

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