Northeast Reeling From Nor'easter
Four governors ask federal government for relief funds; damage estimates near $1 billion
NEW YORK AND NAHANT, MASS.
JACK DAVIS can hardly believe the extent of damage from last weekend's nor'easter that smashed through his town of Little Ferry, N.J.Skip to next paragraph
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Total damages "are estimated at $95 million or more for a town of 9,500 residents"; public works crews were working around the clock for four days; "roughly 60 percent of the 2,300 homes in the town have sustained some damage"; and just about "everyone in town" has experienced difficulties, says Mr. Davis, town administrator for Little Ferry.
The story was similar in much of the Northeast this week, as towns assessed damage from heavy snowfall, flooding, high winds, and other effects of the hurricane-force storm that killed at least 18 people and affected 10 states from Virginia to Maine.
Already, four governors have requested federal disaster aid. They are William Weld (R) of Massachusetts, Lowell Weicker Jr. (Ind.) of Connecticut, Mario Cuomo (D) of New York, and James Florio (D) of New Jersey.
Estimates of total losses throughout the region - Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts - are running in the billion-dollar range.
"There are no threshold levels for the amount of federal funds that could be provided," says Stan Losak, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The amounts will ultimately depend on what is requested in terms of federal assistance, as well as the nature of the emergency declared by President Bush. If existing federal disaster funds are not adequate, then Congress will be asked to "pony up more funds," Mr. Losak says. Not area's worst storm
In New England, this storm was not nearly as severe as the blizzard of 1978. Last year's October "no name" storm may have left more property damage than this storm, but flooding from both storms has been severe.
Before the nor'easter hit, the United States insurance industry was facing "its worst year ever in terms of insured losses," says Tim Dove, a regional consultant for the Insurance Information Institute. Insurance losses for Hurricane Andrew in August are estimated at around $10.7 billion; catastrophe losses for Hurricane Iniki, which hit Hawaii in the fall, run around $1.6 billion; losses for the Los Angeles riots in April are estimated at around $775 million; and the Chicago flooding of last summer cost
insurers another $300 million to $400 million. All told, insurance losses for 1992 will be in the range of $20 billion. The second worst year was 1989, when insurance losses ran to $7.6 billion, Mr. Dove says.
For now, local municipalities are cleaning up, while inspection teams representing cities, states, federal officials, and private insurers visit communities. FEMA is expected to set up local offices where storm victims can meet with disaster officials. In some cases, free housing might be provided for up to 18 months; loan and grant money might also be available, including loans from the Small Business Administration for damaged businesses.