A representative with the Federal Emergency Management Agency has an important message for victims of flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Irene: Don't procrastinate.
FEMA representative Panagiotis "Peter" Lembessis told the Enterprise Thursday that the deadline to apply for individual assistance is Oct. 31.
"It's approaching fast," he said. "People need to pick up the phone or go online and register.
"FEMA is here to help," Lembessis added. "People have nothing to lose. Sometimes, people think the damage isn't bad enough. But you don't know until you make that call."
FEMA federal coordinating officer Philip E. Parr said in a press release that registering for aid opens a "wide range of assistance." He added that if a homeowner's insurance comes up short, or if additional damage appears at a later date, they must be registered to be considered for disaster assistance.
Lembessis said that, to date, more than 550 people have registered for financial assistance related to damage caused by Irene. FEMA has distributed about $1.8 million in individual assistance to Essex County residents - that's an average of nearly $3,300 per applicant.
"The way I see the numbers, Essex County had the most damage of any county in the Adirondacks," Lembessis said.
According to Lembessis, those looking to apply before the deadline don't need to have all of their paperwork in order.
"They just need to get the process moving," he said.
As for public assistance, Lembessis said money is starting to flow to local governments.
Meanwhile, Lembessis urged property owners to meet with a FEMA mitigation expert to discuss strategies for rebuilding. A representative will be at the Lowe's in Plattsburgh today from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"It's a long haul for some people in Essex County, but it's worth it," he said. "If they go, they'll learn about how to rebuild in a way that prevents future damage."
The mitigation expert will provide information on cleaning mold and mildew, elevating electrical services and appliances, channeling water away from foundations and the permitting process required for rebuilding, among other topics.
To register for individual assistance, call 1-800-621-3362 or visit www.disasterassistance.gov.