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Tropical Storm Lee Long Gone, Damage Lingers

Howard County has secured federal funds to help pay for the numerous recovery projects still pending after Tropical Storm Lee.

With temperatures in the 60s and clear, sunny skies, people who did not suffer severe damage have stopped thinking about the flooding and wind damage from August and September storms. 

But not the Howard County Office of Emergency Management. 

The office has secured assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency through a cost-share program. FEMA will cover 75 percent of the cost of repairing properties damaged during Tropical Storm Lee and its aftermath.

There is no set limit to available funds, according to Gene Mellin at the Howard County Office of Emergency Management.

Initially Howard County did not qualify for the program because there was a question as to whether some of the damaged properties were actually county-owned.

“Howard County DPW staff successfully worked to research and verify that the excluded properties were in fact county-owned,” Mellin said.

Once the cost of remedying those properties was included, the county reached the FEMA damage threshold and qualified for assistance. 

Around the country, Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene have cost an estimated $8.2 billion, according to insurance company AON Benfield (.PDF), and were responsible for 59 deaths.

Howard County government, as well as some nonprofit organizations can apply for funding for services, including debris removal, repair and replacement of roads, bridges, buildings, and other public facilities that were damaged by flooding and winds that reached up to 70 mph.

Included in the projects is the repair of , crushing cars and threatening a church-owned building that sits on a hill above the wall. 

The county has stabilized the wall and ensured that the building is stable. So far, there doesn't appear to be any danger to the building, according to Public Works Deputy Director Mark Deluca.

Some, but not all of the parking on Mulligans Hill Lane, next to the Ghost Town Odditorium tattoo parlor, has been restored. Deluca said county and church engineers are working together, and construction on a permanent wall should begin next spring.

"It's going to possibly be an inconvenience for shoppers and people that frequent Ellicott City and Main Street," Deluca said, "but right now it's an unavoidable inconvenience. We're trying our best to make sure it will pose as little of an obstruction as possible."

But that's difficult, he said. "It’s like trying to to accommodate an elephant in a small room."

With reporting by Patch.com Editor Marc Shapiro

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