Picking up the pieces in Niagara

·4 min read

Jul. 22—Niagara Falls and Niagara County leaders are urgently asking residents to report damage caused by Wednesday's flashing flooding by calling or emailing city offices or going on-line or using a smart phone app.

The officials are hoping that a state of emergency declaration, issued in the aftermath of a series of micro-burst thunderstorms and the resulting flooding, will make residents eligible for some state aid to help cover the costs associated with the flood damage.

Jonathan Schultz has served as director of emergency management service for Niagara County for about 10 years. His job can be a tough one but, he says, it gets easier in times of crisis because of volunteers and professionals all chipping in.

Schultz stood outside the Lockport Wastewater Treatment Plant on Wednesday as he spoke after checking on pumps loaned to the facility to help resolve a flooded basement in the administration building. The basement was but one casualty of the Tuesday evening storm that dumped up to 6 inches of rain over the greater Lockport area.

"In 10 years on the job, I've never seen rain like that," Schultz said. "It flooded in places I didn't know could flood. We still have crews out right now pumping basements."

Schultz said the county will be tabulating accrued costs as well as damages reported by citizens in hope of receiving disaster relief.

"We definitely have millions in damages across the county," he said, "that's for sure."

In the Falls, Mayor Robert Restaino asked that city residents and homeowners who experienced damage from the flooding report detailed information about their loss no later than 4 p.m. Friday.

"People have been suffering," the mayor said. "We have a city that has been under siege from water for the last two weeks."

While people in LaSalle and the Center City were hard hit by flash floods last week, the flooding Tuesday, which affected all of Niagara County, and particularly the North End in the Falls, opened a door for some potential relief.

"The piece that is important is the countywide state of emergency yesterday," Restaino said. "That opens up the possibility for the state to review the damage and possibly provide relief."

The mayor stressed there is no guarantee of financial assistance from New York state and cautioned that the timing of the state of the county-wide emergency declaration means only damage and losses sustained on Wednesday would be eligible to aid.

Falls residents and homeowners can contact the city to provide their information via email to Nancy.Shiah@niagarafallsny.gov or by calling the city's executive offices at 286-4320.

At the same time the mayor was issuing his call to action, Niagara County's Schultz announced the release of a new smartphone application called Prepare Niagara. The app will serve as a way for Schultz's agency to connect with county residents and visitors to provide information about flood damage.

"As this week's flooding has shown, it is imperative for us to be able to reach out to the community quickly in the event of any type of emergency situation," he said. "The Prepare Niagara app allows us to do that plus provides several other features that can aid in emergency planning and post-event response."

Residents, once they download the app, will be able to to submit damage reports about Wednesday's flooding.

"For that very reason, we are releasing the app about a week earlier than we had planned so people can submit damage reports from the July 20 storms," Schultz said. "It's a very fast process and is key to helping us meet requirements of a state of emergency declaration."

The app offers quick access to items of public interest and is described as "easy to use." Users can submit damage reports, view evacuation procedures, receive push notifications, connect to Emergency Services' social media platforms, view shelter locations, read recent news and press releases and browse emergency plans and checklists.

The Niagara County Emergency Services app is available for download for free in the App Store and Google Play by searching "Niagara County Emergency, NY, clicking on the QR code or going to https://apps.myocv.com/share/a58414094.

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