State, federal officials assess flood damage
Survey work is first step for potential disaster aid
The torrential rains that flooded Carbon County on August 4 and 5 have prompted Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to request a full damage assessment of the affected areas. On Wednesday, federal, state and local survey and assessment teams arrived in Helper to begin that work.
Those include surveyors and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), the United States Small Business Administration, Utah Division of Emergency Management and Carbon County's own Emergency Management and Sheriff's Department. County Road and Helper Public Works officials were also there to answer questions.
"Right now the federal, state and local teams will only be reviewing the damage caused by the flooding and providing a report to the governor's office," said FEMA spokesperson Jerry DeFelice. "At that point, the governor's office will decide whether or not to make a request for federal assistance through FEMA."
DeFelice was clear that while FEMA would be supplying five teams, no assistance is being provided to local residents by the agency at this time.
The teams will begin their assessments be looking closely at the publicly-owned infrastructure that bore the brunt of the flash flood damage. Should the surveyors get through all the public areas on August 13, they will move on to private businesses and homes starting Thursday.
Once the area has been critically assessed, the federal, state and local information will be collated for Governor Herbert.
The flooding caused mud and debris to surge down from the steep cliffs north and east of Helper, flooding the north end of Main Street and reaching a high water mark of about ten feet at the Janet Street underpass. Additionally, residences along the main surge of water reported having more than a foot of standing water in their basement.
According to a Carbon County Sheriff's Department press release, similar conditions were found in Spring Glen, Carbonville and Westwood Subdivision. Flood waters shut down the county owned Carbon County Club Golf Course, as mud filled at least four fairways and breached the banks of the Price River near hole number nine.
"I have been around this course for two decades and have never seen that river come over the banks on number nine," said Head Pro Tom King Jr.
Following 48 hours of flash flooding, the county established a hotline for those impacted by the disaster. They continue to encourage citizens who have sustained damage to contact 435-472-HELP (4357) or online at http://em.carbon.utah.gov.
Should the governor's office decide to ask for assistance, his request will be passed on to the White House, where President Barack Obama would have to approve FEMA assistance. The services brought forth by those at FEMA may include:
Assistance getting a private business or farm back up and running;
Information about how to get individual finances back in order and file an insurance claim;
â¢ Physical and mental health resources;
Finding and replacing important documents that may have been destroyed by the flood;
Repair and restoration of infrastructure including roads, bridges and culverts;
Until the governor sees the team's report and makes a decision, it is difficult to tell just how much federal resources will be brought to bear.
With this in mind, Helper and Carbon County residents and employees aren't waiting. Starting early on August 5, city crews, property owners and hundreds of volunteers were digging out. Helper councilman Chris Pugliese said they got help from Silver Spur Construction, which halted work on some parts of the water and sewer project in the west part of the city to move workers and equipment downtown.
And while the fast moving waters wreaked havoc on homes, businesses and public structures, the ongoing infrastructure replacement being conducted in Helper was relatively unaffected by the storms.