While the Southside was Virginia’s hardest-hit region during Hurricane Matthew, the earliest the area could see federal relief is next week, said Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
“We are going to get that request in very quickly,” McAuliffe said at a Thursday afternoon press conference at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach.
The conference followed an “extensive debriefing” on the state of Virginia with Hampton Roads leaders and Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives, McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe plans to send a letter to President Barack Obama sometime next week to request FEMA assistance for Virginia, he said, adding that the state has surpassed the damage threshold of $11 million, with more than $25 million in damages estimated in Virginia Beach alone.
Among those are 1,000 Virginia Beach homes, of which about 15 percent had flood insurance.
Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander added that Norfolk faces about $11 million in damages, including two pumps that failed early in the storm, causing underpasses on Virginia Beach Boulevard and Brambleton Avenue to be filled with about 25 feet of water. The pumps are estimated to cost about $1 million each.
Other damages to Norfolk include more than 200 fallen trees and 400 downed structures.
“Many of these homes are totally destroyed,” McAuliffe added.
McAuliffe is waiting to send a letter to Obama until Virginia can assess the true extent of the damages. He plans to spend Thursday visiting Southside areas that were impacted, and he has asked area leaders to list their needs.
On Friday, 16 damage assessment teams will visit different Virginia communities to collect information. A draft of the letter to the president could be completed by Tuesday, said Virginia State Emergency Coordinator Jeff Stern.
“You don’t want to send a request that is insufficient,” McAuliffe said.
Those impacted can expect a check as quickly as 48 hours after Obama certifies the request, McAuliffe said, adding that there is no question that Virginia will be approved for FEMA aid.
McAuliffe also touched on sea-level rise in Hampton Roads, adding that the flooding caused by 14 to 17 inches of rain in the region during the hurricane drew a clear picture of the challenges Virginia Beach and Norfolk face.
“We need to do a better job here of protecting ourselves more on the resiliency issue,” McAuliffe said. “Climate change is real. Sea-level rise is happening. We’ve got to get into the game.”
To view the entire press conference, as well as interviews with Alexander and Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, visit Southside Daily’s Facebook Page.
Mayfield can be reached at 352-431-9612.