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WV residents in flood-prone areas urged to work with county governments for mitigation grants

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WV residents in flood-prone areas urged to work with county governments for mitigation grants

Nov 29, 2023 | 6:00 am ET
By Caity Coyne
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WV residents in flood-prone areas urged to work with county governments for mitigation grants
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Flooding at Fields Creek Road in Winifrede, W.Va. on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. (Lori Kersey | West Virginia Watch)

West Virginians living in areas that are at risk for flooding or other natural disasters are being urged by the state Emergency Management Department to work with their local governments to apply for federal hazard mitigation grant funds.

The grants are available through the Federal Emergency Management Association and were created to help localities invest in infrastructure and programs to mitigate the consequences of natural disasters, including potential losses of life. 

Anyone looking to apply for the funds — which can be used for numerous purposes, including but not limited to elevating a home, building a more resilient structure or receiving a buyout for relocation — must do so in coordination with their county commission, the local emergency management agency or the county floodplain manager before Dec. 31. Visit the state County Commissioners’ Association for contact information for each county commission and the state EMD for local emergency management agencies. 

“Flooding is the [number one] disaster that hits West Virginia nearly every year,” said MaryAnn Tierney, administrator for FEMA Region 3, in an emailed news release last week. “Participating in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program can enable residents to make their homes less vulnerable to flood damage or help whole communities reduce the path of destruction caused by high water.”

Between 2018 and 2022, according to West Virginia’s hazard mitigation plan, 21 flooding events across West Virginia cost the state more than $26 million in property damage. Only five of those floods warranted federal emergency declarations, which are often necessary for localities and individuals to access funding and assistance for recovery.

The hazard mitigation grant program is an attempt to have communities be better prepared for emergencies — which FEMA officials say are likely to get more intense as the threats and consequences of climate change grow — instead of responding to them.

Around 411,000 structures in the state face a 26% risk of being severely affected by flooding in the next 30 years, according to Risk Factor, a model created by the climate nonprofit First Street Foundation to gauge the risk of certain climate-related hazards. 

In a public service announcement crafted and released by the state EMD and FEMA, Lincoln County resident Myrna Elkins tells viewers how two severe flooding events in the 1970s brought more than two feet of water into her family’s home. 

“It wasn’t fun living in a situation like that,” she said. “At least apply [for the hazard mitigation grants]. Give it a shot, you know.”