December 20, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Federal Approval for Major Disaster Declaration for Severe October 31 Storm

Governor Cuomo Announces Federal Approval for Major Disaster Declaration for Severe October 31 Storm

Public Assistance Granted to 18 Counties for Storm-Related Damages

Governor Calls on FEMA to Grant Funding For Individual Assistance Program

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a major disaster declaration has been issued by the federal government for the 18 counties that sustained damages during the severe storms and flash flooding October 31 and November 1, 2019. With this declaration, FEMA has validated state and local government estimates that more than $33 million in response costs and infrastructure damage was incurred following the storms. This approval is the next step toward gaining financial assistance from the federal government to allow local communities to continue to recover and rebuild. Through FEMA's Public Assistance program, reimbursement can be received for activities such as debris removal, emergency protective measures and the repairing and rebuilding of publicly-owned infrastructure, including roads, public schools, bridges, parks, hospitals, police stations, fire houses, water and waste water treatment facilities and other public facilities.

The 18 counties included in the declaration are Chautauqua, Chenango, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Oswego, Otsego, Saratoga, Tioga and Warren Counties.

"The federal government has validated our experts' assessments on the damage this storm caused to public infrastructure, but it is only the first step in getting the assistance we need to help these communities build back," Governor Cuomo said. "I was on the ground the morning after the storm and witnessed firsthand the severe damage sustained by hundreds of homes, and the federal government must now do its part to ensure these families immediately get the funds they need to repair and rebuild their lives."

The federal government has not yet decided on New York's request for funding to support homeowners under the Individual Assistance program. The Governor's request detailed how 18 homes were destroyed, 135 sustained major damage, 136 sustained minor damage and 110 were otherwise affected by the storm.

With the issuance of the federal disaster declaration, the State's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will work with local partners to identify recovery projects to apply for reimbursement through the Public Assistance program. FEMA will then review the projects for eligibility and conduct site visits with the Division and local officials to scope and combine projects, as appropriate. Once a project is identified and the initial site visit has been conducted, FEMA, Division staff and the locality will develop the Project Worksheet, which includes a damage description, scope of work and cost estimate. Following a final FEMA eligibility review, funding will be obligated to the project.

State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Patrick A. Murphy said, "This year's Halloween storm had a devastating impact on upstate New York, and state agencies continue to work with our local partners on assessing and repairing the damage caused by Mother Nature. With the federal government doing the right thing and heeding the Governor's call for a major disaster declaration, impacted communities now have the ability to access funding critical for building back better."

The National Weather Service and New York State Mesonet data indicate upstate New York received a widespread two to five inches of rain with isolated amounts up to seven inches during the storm. Although it began on October 31 and lasted into November 1, most rain fell within a six-hour period. This storm produced heavy rainfall, flash flooding, and strong winds. In fact, flooding reached record levels on the West Canada Creek at the Hinckley Dam and Kast Bridge, Sacandaga River at Hope and Mohawk River at Little Falls. Some residents in the Mohawk Valley also needed to be evacuated, including residents in the Village of Frankfort in Herkimer County near Moyer Creek and in Chadwicks in Oneida County near Sauquoit Creek. Forty State and local members of Task Force 2, the State's swift water rescue team, rescued 65 people and 14 animals during the storm.

Over the course of the storm, more than 100 state roads were damaged, closed, or otherwise impassable at the peak of the incident from floodwaters that overtopped multiple roads, bridges and culverts. Damage was caused by several weather-related factors ranging from erosion of roadway shoulders and damage to bridges, to complete destruction of culverts and roadways. Utility crews also had to restore power to more than 650,000 electric customers affected by the heavy rain, strong winds and gusts that lashed New York State beginning Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. At its peak, there were 246,621 customers without power.

On November 1, the Governor declared a state of emergency for Cayuga, Chautauqua, Cortland, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Montgomery, Oneida, Saratoga and Warren counties. Before, during and following the storm, Governor Cuomo also directed the deployment of a wide range of state response equipment from multiple state agencies, hundreds of state personnel, members of the National Guard, and various other resources to assist localities with response and clean-up operations. The Governor also established nine Disaster Assistance Services Centers throughout the Mohawk Valley and North Country immediately following the storm to provide residents with recovery services offered by state, county and non-profit organizations.

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) provides leadership, coordination and support for efforts to prevent, protect against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorism, man-made and natural disasters, and other emergencies. For more information, visit the DHSES Facebook page, follow @NYSDHSES on Twitter and Instagram, or visit

Contact the Governor's Press Office

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