Hill County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee Tuesday heard an update on the flood disaster this spring, including that Hill County sustained some of the greatest damage — half a million dollars — with Blaine County and Rocky Boy’s and Fort Belknap Indian reservations also among the areas with the highest damage.
Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau told the committee that the preliminary damage assessments are completed, and Gov. Steve Bullock has requested President Barack Obama to declare a disaster.
If that happens, Parenteau said, the governments involved could receive federal assistance as well as state assistance.
Bullock declared a state disaster June 6, and requested the presidential declaration July 1, after Federal Emergency Management Agency officials conducted a preliminary damage assessment in the 12 counties and three reservations for which the request was made.
Parenteau said Hill County sustained some of the worse damage — more than $545,000 in the preliminary estimate — in the flooding that resulted from nearly three weeks of heavy rain, centered on the Bear Paw Mountains.
The preliminary estimate listed Rocky Boy with even greater damage, $773,000. The report estimates the damage in Blaine County at about $358,000 and more than $246,000 at Fort Belknap.
The request is the third for the area in four years, with flooding in 2010 and 2011 also leading to presidential disaster declarations.
Committee Chair Jim Donovan, representing Havre Public Schools on the committee, commented that the staff of Beaver Creek Park is getting used to dealing with flooding damage.
“They are getting awfully good at cleaning it up,” he said. “It’s getting quicker every year.”
“Practice makes perfect,” Parenteau replied.
Parenteau said the governor’s request is only for assistance repairing damage to public facilities and infrastructure. A separate declaration would have to be made for private property owners to received assistance, which could be both financial assistance through FEMA and volunteer labor through organizations helping to repair the damage.
He said, so far, he has only received 16 damage assessments from private property owners.
“We’ll see how that progresses, but it’s not looking very good for individual assistance,” Parenteau said.
He said anyone who sustained damage from the flooding — from wet carpets to one residence he said had about 6 ½ feet of water in its basement — should fill out and return the damage assessment forms.
In the 2010 federal disaster declaration for Chouteau and Hill counties and Rocky Boy, only public assistance was provided.
In the 2011 disaster, which was over a much more widespread region and also included Blaine County and Fort Belknap reservation, individual assistance also was provided.
Parenteau noted that the governor’s request includes the amount of rain recorded at some locations, with the National Weather Service recording station at the Havre City-County Airport west of town receiving 6.18 inches of precipitation between May 19 and June 3 — 619 percent of normal for that period, 1.08 inches.
Other locations in the county received even more, he added — 12 to 14 inches.