FEMA to flood zone: Government here to help

FEMA to flood zone: Government here to help »Play Video
"This flood, we had 74 inches and a half of water here in the basement," Roger Gould said, "and 10 and a half inches in the sanctuary."

MAPLETON, Ore. - Jennifer Chamberlain knocks on the front door of the Mapleton Evangelical Church and calls out, "We're from the county and the state doing a preliminary damage assessment.

In the basement, church trustee Roger Gould was still mopping up the mess the flood left behind almost a month ago.

He's seen worse.

"The 1996 flood," said Gould, pointing to the level the water reached on the wall, "the water in the basement was up to this level."

Not that January weather took it easy on Mapleton.

"This flood, we had 74 inches and a half of water here in the basement," Gould said, "and 10 and a half inches in the sanctuary."

County and state officials are knocking on doors in nine counties with a damage assessment team from the Federal Emergency Management Association. FEMA officials were in Lane County on Thursday assessing the damage from last month's flooding.

Chamberlain, spokeswoman for Oregon's Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman, said if the damage is bad enough, Oregon will get money from the federal government.

FEMA employees said the nine counties in Oregon will most likely qualify for federal public assistance-to fix roads and bridges.

Along the Siuslaw River in Mapleton, a team of county and state employees teamed up with a FEMA damage assessment crews going door-to-door on Thursday to verify flood damage reported by home and business owners.   

Mid-January's Willamette Valley floods were the worst in a decade. In Mapleton it got so bad residents had to navigate the streets by boat. Almost a month later, the flood waters are gone, but the damage remains.

FEMA is tracking reported damage and checking for anything homeowners might have overlooked. 

Chamberlain said if the damage is bad enough, Oregon will get money from the federal government.

"If we can meet those criteria, then we can ask for a presidential declaration," said Chamberlain in Mapleton on Thursday. "If we get that, then FEMA will allow us to have some grant money and reimbursement to fix things up."

But Chamberlain said the Office of Emergency Management in Oregon is hoping to qualify for individual assistance, which would mean grant money for homeowners.

And even after the technical definition of a disaster has passed, trustee Gould from the damaged church sees rising water as part of life along the Siuslaw River.

"Here in Mapleton, you take it with a grain of salt," said Gould. "You get high water, and everybody pitches in to clean out the streets, clean out the parking lots, help people get their homes back. And it's just, I guess, a way of life."