Polk denied FEMA funds for May mudslides

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Federal agency rejects appeal, says disasters were separate incidents

POLK COUNTY — The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency has once again denied the state’s appeal to declare this year’s May storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides a major disaster.

Polk County was alerted Friday to the denial from FEMA.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The county was hoping to receive FEMA funding for the disaster that affected Polk County, mostly along U.S. 176 in the Tryon Township, where three people lost their lives — one from a mudslide and two others when a tree fell on their vehicle.

“After a thorough review of all the information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that the damage identified in your request resulted from separate and distinct events, none of which were of the severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long in a letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. “Therefore, I must inform you that your appeal for a major disaster declaration is denied.”

Gov. Cooper appealed FEMA’s original decision to not declare the events a federal state of emergency in September. Cooper asked for federal assistance for 10 counties, including Polk County, public assistance for 13 counties and hazard mitigation statewide.

David McCrary, constituent service director for Congressman Patrick McHenry’s office, told the county that FEMA’s review of the appeal evidence still found the cumulative damage was the result of several distinct damaging events that had to be evaluated individually because of the time between each one.

“FEMA then determined that none of the individual events met the threshold for a major disaster declaration,” McCrary said. “I regret we did not receive a more favorable response.”

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said the county will be reaching out to state partners to see if there are any other opportunities available to Polk’s citizens.

“We are very disappointed with the decision from FEMA not to grant the emergency funding request,” Pittman said on Monday.

Polk County Commissioner Chair Jake Johnson also expressed his disappointment in the FEMA fund denial.

“This wasn’t something that the people of Polk County watched on the evening news — this was something that we saw firsthand happening to our neighbors, and there are those still suffering as a result of the mudslides,” Johnson said.

“As a state and as a nation, we have to be aware that there is an urban-rural divide, and we have to make sure we are always keeping our eyes open to the needs of all of our citizens. We should be eternally grateful to the first responders and all of those who put their own lives in danger before, during and after this storm.”