WESTOVER — Westover City Council's confidence in qualifying for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid is growing as damage estimates from recent heavy flooding become available.
To qualify for FEMA, Monongalia County must surpass $2.9 million in damages. MECCA 911 Director Jim Smith has said individual and public damage assessments have reached $6 million across Monongalia County.
Westover Mayor Dave Johnson said current damage estimates in Westover alone are about $970, 000.
"We're at that number ; I'm sure we are going to meet that threshold, " Johnson said.
The final decision will also depend on whether FEMA's own calculated damage costs align with current estimates. Johnson said it is important for those who suffered damages from the flooding to keep documentation.
City attorney Tim Stranko said stormwater drains can typically handle a 100-year storm, which is a storm that has a 1 % chance of occurring in a single year ; however, he said the storm that hit the region nearly three weeks ago was much stronger.
"What we saw on July 29 by some measures in parts of our valley was a 1, 000-year storm, " Stranko said. "That's how extraordinary that weather event was that hit our city and caused the terrible damage that we're talking about."
Katelyn Eichelberger, a Westover resident who lost her home to the flooding, said Monday night's council meeting was the first time she heard the county may qualify for aid.
"I'm not getting too hopeful just because I've hit a lot of walls, " Eichelberger said.
Water mixed with sewage filled Eichelberger's basement along with flooding her living area. This resulted in damage to her furnace, hot water heater, cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms, most personal belongings, her toilets, floors and most of the electrical wiring. She said her neighbors suffered losses as well.
With her insurance unable to cover the damages, Eichelberger was left with an uninhabitable home and $500 in aid from the American Red Cross. Eichelberger has since reached out to state and nation officials, including Sen. Joe Manchin, for assistance, but has found little can be done unless the county qualifies for FEMA.
She said the Monongalia County Commission has been helpful in assessing damages and is grateful for the additional help provided with cleaning up the area at no additional costs.
If the county qualifies for FEMA, Eichelberger is hopeful the aid will allow her to make her home livable again.
"If FEMA does step in, then that's going to be just a huge godsend, " she said.
The next Westover City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 7.
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