WASHINGTON - Hurricane Isabel and its cleanup will cost the state and
local governments about $80 million, and it will be months before the job is
done, Maryland's director of homeland security told a congressional
But Maryland Homeland Security Director Dennis Schrader said that as much
as 75 percent of that amount could be eligible for federal reimbursement,
give or take a few million. The next step is filling out the detailed
paperwork and engineering assessments required before federal funds flow in.
"Things that are in our estimates may not be approved," Schrader said.
The $80 million assessment was enough to qualify Maryland for additional
federal help. When the state was declared a major disaster area on Sept. 19,
it qualified for federal reimbursement only for debris removal and emergency
protective measures, but Wednesday's upgrade will allow Maryland to apply
for federal funds to repair roads, water treatment facilities, parks, public
buildings and equipment, and public utilities.
Schrader said after his testimony to the House Government Reform
Committee that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already approved
more than $10 million in aid for individuals in the state. The Insurance
Services Organization estimated Thursday that insurers expect to pay $410
million to homeowners and businesses in Maryland and Washington for insured
property losses as a result of the hurricane.
Schrader was part of a panel that also included representatives of water
and transit agencies, power companies and a condo association, as well as
emergency response officials from the federal government, Maryland, Virginia
and the District of Columbia.
Power company officials again found themselves answering questions about
their performance after the storm, which knocked out power to as many as
1.25 million homes and businesses in Maryland. Thousands were still without
power a week after the storm.
Pepco had more than 5,000 power lines down after the storm, which is
"more in one storm than we see in a year," said Pepco President William Sim.
When asked whether it would help to have more lines underground, Sim said
that it would decrease the number of outages and cited Washington as an
example. In Washington, he said, 63 percent of the lines are buried and the
downtown area was unaffected by the storm.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, said he has received hundreds of
complaints about poor customer service by Pepco, with constituents saying
they were given misinformation about live wires or brushed off by customer
representatives with brusque comments like "sorry" or "too bad."
"People have lost much faith in the ability of Pepco to respond," Van
He read part of a letter from a Silver Spring resident who had a live
wire down in her yard for more than a week. Her letter said Pepco did not
come to her house until she called a local TV station.
Sim said he is sure that particular case is under investigation and that
communication with customers was an area where improvement was needed.
The panel did have some praise for Pepco, commending Sim for hiring
former FEMA Director James Lee Witt to assess the company's response to