FEMA officials assess Wisconsin flood damage

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are touring Wisconsin to assess damage in communities that were hit by flooding and tornadoes in August.

Five FEMA teams are assessing damage to public infrastructure and homes in order to determine whether Wisconsin qualifies for federal disaster aid, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The assistance process can be lengthy but the agency wants to ensure people have time to gather evidence of damage, said Pam Saulsby, a spokeswoman for FEMA.

"When you consider the magnitude of a particular disaster and the sometimes record number of people who are applying for assistance, then we do beg for patience," she said. "We have staff who are tested and trained in getting people on the other side of disasters. But every case is different and we want to take time with people who need more time to get all of this processed."

Wisconsin officials estimate there's more than $108 million in residential storm damage and $75 million in public infrastructure damage.

La Crosse County Emergency Management Director Keith Butler said he believes the state will meet FEMA's public assistance program requirement, which would help repair public infrastructure such as roads and bridges. But Butler said he's unsure if the county will qualify for the agency's individual assistance program.

"If we don't have enough major destruction, then you can't call that a national disaster. That's a local disaster. And that's hard, it's hard to look at peoples' faces and say it was bad, but it wasn't bad enough," Butler said.

Jessica Johnson, who lives near the La Crosse-Vernon County line, said flood waters shifted her mobile home's foundation and damaged her property and cars.

"There isn't money set aside just to fix something like this," she said. "I was hoping for something. I've been calling every number I can find to try to figure out what resources there are."

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