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Wise visits flood-damaged home

July 03, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

INWOOD, W.Va. - Standing in Valeria Skaggs' dark, damp and - until recently - flooded basement Wednesday afternoon, West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise offered her a pat on the back and a few words of condolence.

Skaggs' home in Inwood East Estates, off W.Va. 51, was one of 67 homes in Berkeley County damaged by recent flooding. Of those, 39 homes either had major damage or were destroyed, said Steve Allen, director of the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services.

Skaggs took an important step by contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Wise said. A FEMA inspector surveyed her damage Tuesday, Skaggs said.

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Because she still is without hot water, Skaggs said she will not let her children come home. Her husband, John, is serving in Iraq as a member of the West Virginia Army National Guard.

Although Wise could make no promises, some flooded homeowners might be able to take advantage of FEMA's hazard mitigation program, which seeks to prevent future damage.

Anybody with questions can visit a disaster recovery center that FEMA officials will set up at Musselman High School starting July 9. First though, they need to call FEMA's number, 1-800-621-3362, Wise and others stressed.

Phil Clark, a FEMA spokesperson who also came to Skaggs' home, said FEMA provides aid not only to private businesses and families, but also can help local governments.

Once the disaster is over and people have been assisted, FEMA officials tally how much they doled out for assistance. An amount equal to 71/2 percent of what was spent is put into the Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program.

That money then is given to state officials to spend where they determine it is most needed. City and county officials can ask that a project within their jurisdiction receive assistance, Clark said.

Examples of how the money might be spent include buying homes and destroying them, or moving or elevating homes, Clark said.

"It's very locally-driven," he said. "The goal of these projects is to take people out of harm's way."

FEMA previously contributed 15 percent to the fund, but members of Congress decided this year to add another 71/2 percent to a pre-disaster fund, which seeks to address problems before they arise, Clark said.

Heavy snowfall in the winter, above-average amounts of rain and 2 inches of rain on a recent Saturday contributed to the flooding problems.

Growth also played a part, Allen said. If rain falls and hits roofs or roads instead of the ground, it will have fewer places to go and cause flooding.

That type of flooding has led to the most recent problems, as opposed to rivers and creeks overflowing their banks, Allen said.

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