FEMA says the macro-burst storm damage in South Jersey last month tops $20 million. Unofficially, that’s enough to declare the area a disaster and qualify it for federal help. NJTV News Correspondent David Cruz has been looking into that today.
The response to the storm has been a source of controversy. Gov. Chris Christie and Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno in his stead have gotten criticism for a slow response. Cruz spoke with Guadagno yesterday where she responded to some of that criticism.
“I want to emphasize that while I wasn’t personally in those impacted towns the next day, we were. People from the state of New Jersey were and they were automatically and immediately doing damage assessment. In fact the last number I got we had about 4,000 man hours in in terms of just cutting down trees and helping move debris out of the way. And then of course we had the entire cabinet in that area last Friday, I believe it was,” Guadagno said.
Cruz said Christie was defensive about the topic. Some of the mayors in the area have been very upset by the response. NJTV News spoke with East Greenwich Mayor Dale Archer about what he saw.
“The lieutenant governor came down nine days later. I believe I read yesterday from an interview snip from NJTV that the lieutenant governor said within a few hours state officials were on the ground. I guess in East Greenwich we just didn’t see those individuals or those state officials,” Archer said.
Cruz said Archer was little diplomatic, but generally officials feel like the state kind of dropped the ball on this.
Since Christie is running for president, people are looking more closely at his actions. Cruz said while this storm response may hurt his already falling numbers in New Jersey, people in other parts of the country may not be looking at the details of what’s happening.
“I think in New Hampshire and other places around the country what happened with the storm in South Jersey is not going to have a great impact. But as far as the governor’s perception or the perception of the governor in New Jersey, it just starts to feed this perception that he is now an absentee governor,” Cruz said.
FEMA was in the hard hit area yesterday and Cruz said it seems like it will meet the threshold for disaster aid, but Christie has to make that declaration. He has until July 23 to do so.