Home state help: Biden approves Delaware disaster declaration after Ida flooding

Andrienne Dolley stands in front of a gas station surrounded by floodwaters

Andrienne Dolley stands in front of a gas station whose lot was left submerged by Ida's remnants. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Heavy rains in parts of Delaware and further upstream in Pennsylvania caused devastating flooding for several areas in Wilmington as the remnants of Hurricane Ida moved through the region in early September. Now, federal funds will be available to help repair some of that damage.

Gov. John Carney asked for $2.5 million in federal help in a disaster declaration request sent to President Joe Biden on Sept. 17.

“Flooding from heavy rainfall caused considerable damage to residential and commercial structures and vehicles in the areas of the eastern portion of the City of Wilmington,” Carney said in his request. He went on to say about 48 properties sustained major damage, 114 had minor damage, and 71 others had been affected by floodwaters.

“In addition to the individuals who have been impacted, approximately $2.5 million in damage to public infrastructure, culturally significant private nonprofits, and costs related to emergency protective measures have been identified,” Carney said.

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Biden approved a disaster declaration for Delaware over the weekend.

“We are grateful that the request to aid affected governments and nonprofits was approved and are hopeful that FEMA will be able to provide support directly to our residents who are still struggling to recover from this historic event,” said Delaware Emergency Management director AJ Schall.

Carney’s request for individual assistance, which would directly help homeowners and renters, was denied by the White House. FEMA officials determined that “the impact to individuals and households in New Castle County is not of the severity and magnitude to warrant designation of Individual Assistance.”

Ida’s rains caused the Brandywine Creek in Wilmington to rise to 23.14 feet on Sept. 1, nearly three feet above its previous record high of 20.43 feet set in 2014. Flooding along a 15 to 20 block area along the creek forced multiple water rescues from the city’s Riverside neighborhood, with about 200 people being evacuated.

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Further up the Brandywine from those Wilmington neighborhoods, the rising river inundated land at the Hagley Museum and Library, causing several million dollars in damage to the birthplace of the DuPont company. The museum has since reopened, but the area around the large mills used to produce gunpowder long ago remains off-limits.

Last week, the state Division of Parks and Recreation announced a bridge that’s part of a popular walking trail at Alapocas Run State Park will be closed indefinitely. The Bancroft Bridge was first shut down on Sept. 2 after initial inspections showed the bridge had bowed and shifted on its support beams and foundation, which had cracked.

Parks officials aren’t sure if the entire bridge will need to be replaced, or if it can be replaced piece by piece. They say there’s no timetable for that decision or a reopening.

Damage in Delaware was not quite as bad as that seen in New Jersey, where Biden traveled just days after the storm to meet with families who he said suffered “profound” losses. The storm killed 27 people in the Garden State. The storm also wreaked historic flooding in Philadelphia, causing the Schuylkill River to overflow its banks to a level not seen in more than 150 years.

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