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Home repairs follow RI Spring floods

Volunteers set rebuilding plans following historic spring flooding


"The biggest need we have is the cleanout"

—Paul Salera, Rhode Island Disaster Long Term Recovery Group

Months after the April floods that some in Rhode Island have called the worst in decades, long-term recovery organizations in the region estimate the overall rebuilding process will last more than a year.

Work is slated for about 40 homes, ranging from total rebuilding to minor repairs, said Paul Salera, of the Rhode Island Disaster Long Term Recovery Group. Right now the organization is taking the cases that are in highest need of repair, such as homes with cracked foundations, no running water and damaged electrical systems.

The damage is the result of heavy rainfall that fell in the New England area in the spring, with more than 15 inches of rain recorded in Rhode Island by early April, according to the National Weather Service. The state's governor, Don Carcieri, in the spring called the flooding "unprecedented in our nation's history."

Salera said the newly-formed organization began in May to deal with what he called the state's first major disaster in 50 years. Its immediate goal is to complete work on high priority projects: one home which is in immediate need of a total rebuild, two which are in urgent need of rebuilding, and about 35 other homes require non-urgent repairs. The remainder of the homes will need to undergo a through cleanout in the coming months.

"The damage in the Rhode Island wasn't where houses were being swept away," Salera said, but rather water damage. With the added heat and humidity this summer, mold and mildew became an issue.

"The biggest need that we have is the cleanout," he added. Right now he is assigning cases from a list compiled by the CRWRC needs assessment team, who in June spent two weeks reaching out to more than 25,000 households, walking door-to-door, making phone calls and sending out emails. He said the long-term recovery organization has been working closely with FEMA, and has had help from other groups, including United Way of Rhode Island, The United Methodist New England Conference/United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), NCCC and the Archdiocese of Providence.

Becky Purdom, volunteer program manager at CRWRC, said she was surprised at the relatively low number of people with unmet needs that the needs assessment team came up with.

After about 22,000 people registered with FEMA, Purdon said the team found about 200 with unmet needs.

"That could be a great thing, because people already received aid, or that could be because people never came forward," she said.

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