SANTA FE (KRQE) - Rough damage estimates from New Mexico’s September floods are in, and state officials are expecting it to be one of the most expensive disasters in New Mexico's history.
While money from the federal government will help the repair, it won’t cover all of the cost. And some of the hardest hit New Mexicans won’t see any of the money.
From the state’s cities to remote towns, the flooding hit New Mexico harder than many people ever expected.
“We didn't think it was going to be this severe,” said Maria Luján, whose home near the Pecos River flooded.
“Sad, but just total loss,” said Chris Lopez, whose home south of Belen saw at least three feet of water.
The state only needed to find $3 million worth of damage to infrastructure like roads, bridges, canals and arroyos in order to get FEMA’s help. It submitted about $16 million worth of damage, but the state believes there will be a lot more.
“As we've gone a little further into digging into the damages that we do have, we're looking at the possibility of it being about $60-$100 million,” said Estevan Luján, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security.
In just one example, flooding in Ash Canyon east of Elephant Butte Lake took out part of State Road 52 resulting in one of two fatalities linked to the storm runoffs.
While the just-ended shutdown of the federal government delayed New Mexico’s application for federal damage reimbursement, the application is expected to be submitted within the next week. Once the application is submitted and accepted, the state will be given the opportunity to apply for reimbursement to any and all storm-related damage to public property found.
Repairs are already taking place on some of that damage.
“The state will help them out to reimburse those costs, and then the folks from FEMA reimburse the state for those costs,” said Luján.
According to the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, FEMA should cover about 75 percent of the cost of the damage. The state will cover about 12.5 percent and counties and cities will cover the remain 12.5 percent.
However, FEMA likely won’t be covering another big chunk of damage the state saw: damage to homes.
Homeowners like the ones in Bernardo, who found themselves in the middle of a lake where the Rio Puerco meets the Rio Grande, will likely be stuck with the bill.
“Based on the information we've provided them so far, the (Small Business Administration) will not be providing us with individual assistance, which leads us to believe that FEMA will probably not provide individual assistance as well,” said Luján.
To get that help, each county with a disaster declaration had to have at least 25 homes or businesses with significant damage totaling more than 40 percent of the value of the property. State emergency-management officials say New Mexico doesn't have that.
“It's a pretty difficult threshold to meet no matter what in any emergency or disaster,” said Luján.
The state says the best bet for homeowners without flood insurance is to get help from nonprofits.
“Reach out to folks like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army; they've always been very generous and helpful,” said Luján.
New Mexico’s Department of Homeland Security says the state's other big storm this year in July caused about $11.4 million in damage to public property in five counties and four pueblos. President Obama has already approved FEMA funding for that.
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