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Damage from Isaac floods estimated at $72 million in Palm Beach County

 

Palm Beach Post

A tropical storm that never came close to Palm Beach County will cost nearly $72 million in total damages and cleanup costs, county emergency managers said.

The county revealed the figures the same day Gov. Rick Scott surveyed the historic soaking Isaac’s outer bands visited upon the county, especially western suburbs that absorbed — actually have yet to absorb — up to a staggering foot and a half of rain.

The figure might well be more than enough to qualify the county for a federal disaster declaration, which would make it eligible for federal aid to help rebuild damaged public schools, libraries and fire stations. Individuals also might be eligible for federal assistance to cover their personal damages.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency would review the figures provided by the state and also would make its own damage assessments.

To even ask, the county would have to have $4.475 million in uninsured damages, and the state as a whole $25 million, Florida emergency management director Bryan Koon said Wednesday as he traveled with the governor in suburban West Palm Beach.

But Palm Beach County will not qualify unless the state does.

Koon said it probably would be another day or two before the state settled on a total.

Koon said the federal government already has declared a state of emergency and Florida already qualifies for small business loans.

According to Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Vince Bonvento, the county’s $71.59 million figure includes damage to local businesses, public “infrastructure” and individual homes.

He said Indian Trail Improvement District saw the greatest damage; $40 million to its water control system and another $19.2 million to roads and bridges in the district.

Bonvento did not know whether the losses were insured.

As the governor left town Wednesday, he announced he’d activated the state’s disaster fund, Neighbors to the Rescue, to distribute money to help recovery efforts for victims of both Isaac and Tropical Storm Debby, which soaked central and northern Florida in June.

The governor also said Wednesday he will call for a review of the water management network to see what needs to be improved before the next major rain/flooding event occurs.

Scott arrived around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday at South Florida Water Management District headquarters in suburban West Palm Beach and got a briefing from district officials.

“Here’s where our biggest problem in the state is,” Scott said.

“I know that there still are significant impacts in this area, ” Executive Director Melissa Meeker told the governor. “That’s why you’re here.”

Scott then toured the district’s operations and command centers before boarding a district helicopter at Palm Beach International Airport for the one-hour flyover.

“You saw the roads and you think of the land that was underwater,” he said later. “You have to look at each family and see how it impacts them.”

Since Isaac passed through Sunday and Monday, water managers have sent historic amounts of floodwater down canals.

In the helicopter, “we saw a lot of water moving,” Koon said. “You could whitewater-raft on some of that stuff.”

Scott then went the short distance to the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center in suburban West Palm Beach, where he had a private briefing with county commissioners and staff.

Scott later noted that Isaac could have been much worse. It was expected to strike the Keys as a Category 1, disrupt the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and bulldoze into the western Panhandle, but did none of those things.

But, he said, for flooded areas of Palm Beach County, “this whole team is making sure, family by family, that they’re taken care of.”

And, he said, with the long and lucrative Labor Day weekend looming, “we’ve got to take care of everybody’s needs but we’ ve got to get our state back to work.”

In fact, Scott left West Palm Beach for Key West, where hotel owners are complaining that people think the Keys were hit and are canceling Labor Day stays. He was set to go to the Panhandle Thursday.

“We want to make sure people come back, tourists come back to our state, because so many jobs in our state are tied to tourism,” he said.

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