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Aug. 27--A team of state, federal and City of Warren disaster investigators spent the hot and muggy afternoon Tuesday walking through a neighborhood in Warren -- the first stop in what's expected to be a four-day assessment of flood damage across metro Detroit prior to Michigan requesting federal aid for victims.
"It was like a river coming through," Diane Picard 59, told the group as she described how her house, built over a shallow crawl space, had water rise 18 inches inside the first floor. It's on one of two blocks near Ryan and Stephens that were inundated with water.
On a table outside Picard's house lay family photos, keepsakes and financial papers drying in the sun. In the frame house where she's lived for 55 years and where she and her husband raised two children, "it's just chaos," Picard said with a laugh. Her niece and a family friend worked to clean and repair the damage that insurance adjusters told her they will pay not a cent to cover, Picard said.
On Wednesday, six teams of damage-assessment experts are to fan out across metro Detroit, officials said. They will speak with representative samples of renters, homeowners, business owners and local government officials, then compile a report in the next several weeks that state officials will use in applying for federal assistance, said Sandy Jasmund, an external affairs officer with the Chicago-based regional office of the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
"We only come after being requested," Jasmund said. "We got the request (from state officials) last Friday," she said.
Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement Tuesday afternoon in which he urged metro Detroiters to "report losses to their local governments as soon as possible." That will help bolster the case that Michigan deserves federal disaster relief, Snyder's statement said.
"Photograph your losses and keep all receipts" of payments for repairs and replacement items, Snyder's statement advised.
The teams viewing the damage and talking with victims include state, federal, county and local disaster officials, and some have representatives of the American Red Cross or other nonprofit groups as well as disaster consultants from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Mike Shaw said.
Flood victims who don't encounter the investigators shouldn't worry that they are being overlooked, Shaw said.
"All three counties (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb) will be looked at. Just because your street didn't get looked at doesn't mean we didn't take your community into account," Shaw said.
He said the State Police would not release the names of communities where they are escorting the assessment teams because "it is the counties we are looking at -- not each individual city," Shaw said.
Serious flooding and backups of sewage-laced rainwater were reported in more than a dozen communities. About a third of the properties in Warren, about 40% in Dearborn and about 75% in Huntington Woods had flood damage, local officials reported.
Huntington Woods Mayor Ron Gillham said he was part of "a huge conference call of city people around the area" last week with U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, and also got a direct call from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Both wanted details on the damage, said Gillham, who had 2 feet of water in his basement. Stabenow "was very sympathetic, but she said the aid has to go through FEMA," he said. Gillham said, as much as he wished otherwise, he did not expect most metro-Detroit residents to individually receive federal aid.
Most federal aid is expected to go toward repairing bridges, roads and other infrastructure, county and local officials have said. That's not welcome news for homeowners, some of whom lost furnaces, water heaters, washers and dryers, basement furniture, stereo systems, artwork and racks of clothing.
Thanks to a flock of relatives who helped the Picards quickly remove most of their wet, soiled furnishings, their house has been habitable. But nearby, one neighbor is living in a borrowed recreational vehicle, another has camped in a tent, while Coreena Dragoi, 46, simply abandoned her rented house and her lifetime of possessions to live with friends.
After water rose inside the house more than three feet, a building inspector from Warren slapped a sticker on the door, declaring the house unfit for habitation.
"You can't live there -- mold is growing up the walls, two inches a day," Dragoi said.
Contact Bill Laitner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4485. Staff Writers Chris Hall and Niraj Warikoo contributed to this report.
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