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FEMA to join local officials to assess damage from historic rainfall

Islip Town officials warned Aug. 18, 2014, that

Islip Town officials warned Aug. 18, 2014, that floodwater contaminants can create serious fire hazards if electrical wiring and equipment have been submerged in water. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will join state and local authorities this week to help with damage assessments in Suffolk County following the record-breaking rainstorm that swept through the South Shore last week.

The federal role came Monday when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sent a letter to FEMA requesting its help, FEMA spokesman Don Caetano said.

More than 1,000 homes on Long Island suffered damage Wednesday and local states of emergency were declared in the towns of Islip, Brookhaven and Babylon, according to Cuomo's office. Islip Town was the hardest hit, recording 13.57 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, shattering a 2011 state record of 11.6 inches in upstate Tannersville during Hurricane Irene.

Inspectors were dispatched Monday from Islip Town to affected areas, Councilman Steven J. Flotteron said at a news conference Monday. He urged residents to admit town inspectors into their homes to help tally damage that will go toward the assessments.

FEMA will launch its inspectors midweek, Caetano said, and will be looking at a number of factors -- including the number of homes damaged, the number of homes with and without insurance and the dollar amount of damages -- to decide if a disaster declaration can be made and federal financial aid dispersed, Caetano said.

Flotteron said the town expects to meet the threshold to receive FEMA help for damage to municipal properties, with nearly $20 million already calculated from the impact to public areas including both town hall buildings, marinas, parks, Long Island MacArthur Airport, train stations and roughly 20 sinkholes on roadways.

Town officials are also pushing the inspections because of potential safety risks, such as fire hazards with water touching electrical systems or black mold forming in wet drywall if it is not removed.

Many damaged homes were not on the waterfront and did not have flood insurance, officials said. For instance, West Islip homeowner Tom Dwyer, 46, a banker, saw his home on Driftwood Drive inundated with 5 inches of water on the ground level, damaging the electrical system, boiler and parts of the living room, kitchen and family room.

He, like many others throughout the town, was still in cleanup mode Monday, as he waited for an insurance adjuster after putting piles of black garbage bags filled with wet belongings out on the curb.

"I'm afraid to think how expensive it'll be, especially if we don't have insurance to cover it," Dwyer said.

"After two hurricanes, we were fine, but this storm did a number on us."

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