Posted on December 14, 2020
Madeira Beach is asking residents to documents all damage in the hopes of receiving FEMA funds.
MADEIRA BEACH, FL — As Madeira Beach residents continue to recover from the impact of Tropical Storm Eta, which struck the city Nov. 12, city officials are reaching out to provide inspection assistance and damage documentation so the city can qualify for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The city hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday to answer residents questions about storm damage. The city also had a bank of laptop computers available so city staff and insurance representatives could help residents file damage reports and claims.
More than 360 homes were damaged by flood waters in Madeira Beach, acording to Community Development Manager Linda Portal. Residents also lost boats and docks to the storm, and a number of businesses were damaged.
“People were reporting waking up to almost knee-deep water in their homes,” said Portal. “And there were a number of near electrocutions, which are the No. 1 cause of deaths in a flood.”
In just over 24 hours, the Madeira Beach Fire Department responded to 70 emergency calls, 43 in less than six hours. Most were requests for rescues from flooded homes and streets.
City Manager Robert Daniels said the high level of flood waters took many by surprise.
“The crews maneuvered through chest-deep waters with the assistance of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and their boat. Crews would pull the small rescue vessel to those in need of assistance including families with children and pets,” Daniels said.
“We do have a lot to be thankful for,” said Daniels. “No one was seriously injured. Damage to the city itself was minimal. Unfortunately, the citizens bore the brunt of the surging flood waters and some homes may be uninhabitable or maybe completely destroyed. Compared to Hurricane Irma, in my opinion, Tropical Storm Eta was much worse due to the flooding causing the call volume to be high even for a storm event. Eta reminded us that no matter what month it is, when living in Florida it’s important to be prepared for a storm.”
Portal said she was gratified to see so many residents reach out to help their neighbors who were left homeless.
“We really appreciate seeing the neighborliness and assistance you’ve been offering,” she said.
Portal said the minimum damage estimate in Madeira Beach due to Tropical Storm Eta is $8.5 million. The actual cost will be much greater because an estimated 50 houses that have sustained major damage will have to be demolished and rebuilt.
“It’s a big deal,” she said. “It’s a blow to the community.”
Residents shared heartbreaking stories with the Madeira Beach City Commission about first their businesses and incomes to the coronavirus closures and now losing their homes to Tropical Storm Eta.
Madeira Beach Mayor John B. Hendricks vowed to do everything possible to help residents recover.
Daniels said the city is waiving building permit fees for storm-damaged properties. Also, the 72-hour requirement has been waived for having a POD in front of a home provided a copy of the building permit is attached to the street side of the POD.
Hendricks noted that residents don’t need to obtain a permit to demolish a dilapidated dock. He suggested residents do so as soon as possible to prevent water hazards.
Nevertheless, city building official Frank DeSantis said the city has had trouble keeping up with the demand for building permits to repair damages homes and businesses.
Some residents complained that homes were growing black mold while they waited for demolition permits.
DeSantis told them not to wait for a permit to do the demolition work. He said it’s imperative to get rid of water-logged materials before the mold spreads.
At the same time, warned residents not to hire unlicensed contractors to perform work at their homes, noting that homeowners could be left with dangerous black mold and unsafe wiring conditions.
In the meantime, residents should take the following actions:
- Continue reporting damage and losses to the city and the county on the Pinellas County website and provide water line photos and photos of flooding inside homes to the city. This documentation will be given to FEMA to make a case for additional aid.
- Contact the 2-1-1 helpline to find out what recovery resources are available to residents.
- Visit the American Red Cross’s website for information regarding disaster relief and recovery services.
- Visit Recovery Tampa Bay Initiative’s website for additional resources. This organization is working closely with state and local partners to determine unmet needs and identify recovery resources.
- Fill out a Citizen Damage Assessment.
On Nov. 25, the Department of Economic Opportunity and State Emergency Response Team activated the Business Damage Assessment Survey. The program, managed by the DEO, will gather information from businesses affected by Tropical Storm Eta and share the results with various local, state and federal agencies to implement appropriate disaster relief programs.
“We know that many businesses were impacted by the severe weather caused by Tropical Storm Eta,” said Dane Eagle, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership and with the support of our partners at the Division of Emergency Management, we will help support businesses through the recovery process,” said Dane Eagle, executive director of the DEO.
Businesses should click here to complete the survey.
Having been caught unawares by Tropical Storm Eta and having to depend on support from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Daniels said the fire department is researching the cost of acquiring a high-water vehicle to assist in the rescue and evacuation process.
“Having this resource available will be of tremendous help with future evacuation of citizens,” he said. “Many fire departments in flood-prone communities throughout Pinellas County have such a vehicles as part of their fleet.”
Daniels said the city also will amend its emergency action plan to include an evacuation advisdement for residents during tropical storms, noting that no mandatory evacuations were issued for any communities in Pinellas County.
In the 11 days after Tropical Storm Eta, city sanitation crews collected more than 350 tons of trash from beaches, parks and rights of way.