Flood help extended to Snohomish County homeowners

OLYMPIA — Flood damage to homes in Snohomish County earlier this month has led authorities to designate the county a federal disaster area, opening the way for millions of dollars in aid.

Officials estimate more than $5 million in damage was done to homes in Snohomish County during the extreme urban flooding that occurred Dec. 2 and 3.

Homeowners in Snohomish County are eligible to receive grants of up to $28,800 to cover basic needs that haven’t been covered by insurance. People must register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency within 60 days to be eligible for grants.

By Friday, 131 families had filed with the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management claiming damage losses. More than 40 families were forced from their homes because of the flooding for at least a short period of time. Nearly 10 faced long-term displacement as their homes need major repairs.

FEMA planned to open a recovery center in Lynnwood today, and the agency also planned to make crisis counselors available for people who suffered significant damage.

“Some people have lost almost everything,” said John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. “It’s especially difficult during the holidays.”

Although the number of homeowners affected in Snohomish County is relatively small, the county got the disaster designation because of the magnitude of flood-related problems throughout the state, Pennington said.

“It’s pretty clear that the county’s resources are overwhelmed,” he said. “We can’t step in and help every homeowner.”

Snohomish County is among a dozen counties statewide that are getting help from the federal government to repair public facilities. The other counties are Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Thurston, Clallam, Jefferson, King, Skagit and Wahkiakum.

Snohomish County’s flood damage total has climbed to $17 million, including $4 million for public structures, $5 million for damage to homes, $3 million to small businesses and $5 million to fix a washout at Seattle Hill Road.

With the disaster declaration, up to 75 percent of damage to public buildings and structures should be covered. Businesses that were damaged are expected to get access to low-interest loans.

The amounts of relief grants for homeowners will vary, said Wali Armstead, public information officer with FEMA. Inspectors will visit people who apply for aid to determine the amount of aid.

In Snohomish County, 25 people applied to FEMA for aid before Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the county had been designated a disaster area for individual assistance.

“I would anticipate that number increasing,” Armstead said.

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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