Video by Jocelyn Rubin, CNS TV.
CRISFIELD – It’s been nearly three months since superstorm Sandy battered Maryland’s southernmost city, but Dawn Carter’s sister is still living in a motel.
Carter’s Crisfield home sustained only minor wind damage, she said Thursday, but as for her sister, “They evacuated everyone from her apartment complex. She is still waiting to be permanently relocated.” Carter said.
Despite that setback, overall, she said, the city is improving quickly. Almost all of the business are reopened, and most of the people she knows either never left their homes, or have been able to return.
“It’s not completely back to where we were, but we are making a lot of progress,” Carter said.
That’s the Crisfield that U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., saw Thursday in his survey of the progress made since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast in late October.
“Today I have had the opportunity to see first-hand how devastating superstorm Sandy was to the businesses and individuals of Somerset County,” Cardin said at the Disaster Recovery Center.
The center was set up three weeks ago in the Lower Somerset Ambulance and Rescue Squad with funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Federal funds were provided for the county after President Barack Obama declared Somerset County a major disaster area on Dec. 15.
But getting that money was not easy. The president denied the county’s initial request, and it was not reversed until after an appeal by Cardin, Maryland’s senior Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The declaration allowed the county to receive individual assistance, in addition to the public assistance FEMA was already providing.
“FEMA has been a godsend to us,” said Steve Marshall, director of the Somerset County Department of Emergency Services and a Crisfield resident. FEMA, he said, “may not be able to help everybody but they’ve gone a long way in helping people who wouldn’t have had help otherwise.”
He has his own theory about why the help was slow in coming.
“This is the only storm in modern history that only affected our county and didn’t affect the rest of the Eastern Shore,” he said. That made it more difficult to obtain federal aid. “I saw people that I’ve known all my life suffering, and that was difficult for me.”
But there was a bright side: “The good thing is we didn’t lose anybody. We had no deaths or serious injuries. That tells me that we did something right.”
The government wants to continue to keep the city on the right path, said Cardin.
“When people rebuild their homes, we want them to rebuild them in a way to mitigate damage in the future,” he said, using the barriers built in Ocean City as an example.
The state’s congressional delegation is going to continue to seek assistance for Somerset County, including the recently passed emergency supplemental bill that will help restore public services, coastal restoration, fishery fund and public safety. The Senate has also approved a $60 billion request from the Obama administration for all the states affected by the storm, Cardin said.
“Those funds have been approved by the Senate but have not been approved in the House. We should have done this well before now, but let’s get it done,” Cardin said.