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4:52 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Some Maryland Residents Feel Forgotten After Sandy

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 10:25 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Hurricane Sandy focused most of its devastation on New Jersey and New York. But in Maryland, the town of Crisfield was also badly hit. The community is one of the poorest in Maryland.

And as we hear from reporter Brian Russo, residents say they are being forgotten.

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BRYAN RUSSO, BYLINE: Tina Dyes walks on a long wooden fishing pier that stretches into the Chesapeake Bay. She's pulling up strings that used to hold crab pots, but there's nothing on the end of those strings. There are missing boards every few feet and large portions are bowed or seemingly hanging on by a single nail. It kind of looks like one of those rickety drawbridges from an Indiana Jones movie.

TINA DYES: I bet this dock isn't a year and half old. It was a nice place for the children to come and go crabbing. I mean, it's really devastated Crisfield.

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RUSSO: Hurricane Sandy swept a five-foot wall of water through this historic Maryland fishing town that was once called the Seafood Capital of the World. And while the storm spared the vast majority of Maryland's eastern shore, it flooded more than 500 homes here in Crisfield, rendering many of them unlivable.

TINA THORN: When it was coming in it looked like the ocean.

RUSSO: That's Tina Thorn. Her quaint little ranch house took on feet of water during the storm, and is now completely gutted and being overrun by black mold. She has no flood insurance and it will cost her roughly $100,000 to fix the damages.

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RUSSO: Oh, my God.

THORN: You can see - here's the line. Looks like about 30 feet, maybe.

RUSSO: Entire neighborhoods in Crisfield were demolished by the storm surge, displacing hundreds of people.

THORN: Next door, the man across the street, everybody down. There's a little side road here, all those people except for one, they're all gone. Nobody is really talking about coming back 'cause what's there to come back to?

RUSSO: A few blocks away, a commercial fisherman named Mark Bradshaw stands in line for food at a local church that's been serving up thousands of hot meals and giving out non-perishable items for storm victims. He looks tired and shell-shocked. And he, like so many others in Crisfield, are waiting for the cavalry.

MARK BRADSHAW: Wondering where FEMA is. You know, it seems like Crisfield has been forgot about. And we got just as much damage as a lot of people, as what they have in New York and New Jersey. But we don't have anybody doing a concert for us down here.

RUSSO: PJ Purnell is the mayor of Crisfield. He says FEMA has granted public assistance funding to Somerset County, but that's handling public infrastructure not individual homes. So, for people living here in the poorest town in Maryland's poorest county, very few people have the money to replace what's been lost.

MAYOR PJ PURNELL: If you don't have flood insurance and you basically are looking for someone to help you, it takes time. People just don't unfortunately come out of the woodwork and hand you money.

RUSSO: Maryland's congressional delegation has been trying to get individual assistance granted for the folks in Crisfield, since the storm hit a month ago. But the request was denied on Monday by the federal government.

Here's FEMA spokesperson Mike Ward.

MIKE WARD: Although we are aware that the Marylanders have suffered a lot of personal losses as a result of Sandy, it was determined that it is not beyond the capabilities of the state, local governments, and the volunteer agencies to help them.

RUSSO: Jim Mathias is a Democratic state senator in Maryland who represents Crisfield. He says based on the economic conditions, he doesn't know who else would be more qualified for government assistance.

STATE SENATOR JIM MATHIAS: I can't remember a moment where I've been more deeply disappointed in a public policy decision.

RUSSO: Mathias says he believes Maryland Governor O'Malley will appeal the decision. But until further help arrives, hundreds of people in this proud little fishing community won't be going home for the holidays or anytime soon, for that matter.

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RUSSO: For NPR News, I'm Bryan Russo

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC BY LOS STRAIGHTJACKETS)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.