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The total estimate of damage from Hurricane Carol and successive storms was $52,725,000. Of this, almost $51 million was attributable to tidal flooding which occurred during Hurricane Carol. These figures are exclusive of damage to State and municipal facilities, railroads, communications, and power.
The effects of these losses upon this community experienced almost entirely by individuals and firms without insurance coverage against flood damage can well be imagined by the members of this committee. Every possible aid was extended to our stricken downtown area by the Providence fire and police departments, and by the various private agencies accustomed to providing for emergency situations.
There was, nevertheless, for most businesses and for most industries, a protracted period of recovery involving, of course, additional business losses not computed in the foregoing estimates.
In many cases recovery was possible only through disaster loans made available by the Federal Government after the declaration of Providence and surrounding territories as a disaster area. Reports indicate that approximately $21/2 millions were made available in Providence in disaster loans from the Small Business Administration. It is, of course, obvious that these loans, necessary and welcome as they were at that time, place an additional and heavy burden upon those firms forced to carry additional indebtedness by reason of this catastrophe of nature.
The context in which flood insurance must be considered, however, is not merely that of assessment and repair of the damages which occurred in the summer of 1954. I shaìl have nothing to say this morning with respect to damage suffered in this vicinity during 1955 as a result of Hurricane Diane and subsequent storms. Those storms resulted in damage to New England communities outside of Providence, and while my sympathy is extended to them, I must assume that you gentlemen of this committee are familiar with the plight of these localities or will become so during the course of these hearings.
I must be concerned, however, as are numbers of our citizens in Providence, with the constant threat of repeated damage which continually hangs over our heads.
I have been told frequently, and I can well believe, that few commercial enterprises or industrial firms can sustain a repetition of the damages suffered through Hurricane Carol and continue in the city of Providence or, indeed, continue to remain solvent.
I have no estimate of the amount of money spent during 1955 by individual firms and plants for individual protection of their own buildings and properties. Some such protection was of temporary nature; some was of a relatively permanent nature. Certainly the value of these ventures must have run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars; perhaps into the millions.
The important fact to recognize is that investment in the varied types of protection reflects the apprehension and the very real dangers in repetition of these storms and storm damage in this city. I can assure you that many uneasy hours, more than that, many uneasy days were spent here following the reported progress of Hurricanes Connie and Diane as they approached the coastline of the United States.
The Congress of the United States, in its recent session authorized the United States Army engineers to make a study of flood protection in New England with the first priority to be given to the Providenice and Narragansett Bay area. We are extremely grateful for the work of the engineers which began last August and which is now underway. We can expect a report to the Congress by the engineers sometime late in 1956.
After receiving this report the Congress may, if it chooses-and we have every reason to believe it will so choose-make an appropriation for the construction of protective works in Narragansett Bay. It is probable that the simplest type of barrier, following the authorization for construction, would take at least 2 years to complete. This means for us here in Providence, assuming that these events go forward as scheduled, an extremely critical 3 to 4 years between the present date and the eventual completion of large-scale hurricane protection for the city of Providence.
We need, I think I can fairly say that we desperately need, the protection which would be afforded over this period by an adequate program of flood-damage insurance.
I should like to conclude my remarks with a general statement as to what proper protection means to the city of Providence as a municipality. Below the 15-foot contour level in Providence we have some $144 million in assessed valuation in land and buildings, exclusive of inventory and personal property. With a total assessment of $487 million, this means that approximately 30 percent of our tax base lies within this low and vulnerable area. With reference to inventory and personal property the percentage is probably at least as high. Additional losses, should these occur and should they be unprotected
, by an adequate insurance program, could well create a revenue problem of such proportions as to be almost unsolvable.
There are, I understand, a variety of proposals for flood insurance with differences of opinion as to how the risk should be shared and as to whom the insurance should be written by. I am not concerned at this time with the details of the various proposals. I am here only to present my plea, in the strongest possible terms, for an adequate food-insurance program, which will protect the businessmen and industrial concerns of this city and the tax base of our municipal gorernment, by whomever and in whatever way it is possible to make such insurance available, and available at a very early date.
Senator LEHMAN. Thank you very much, Mayor. Your statement I think is very interesting. Those figures you give about the amount of property that is below a certain level and is not necessarily protected I think are particularly impressive.
I want to ask you to comment, if possible, in regard to the accuracy of the statement that is in the study which our very efficient staff of the committee has made and which is now before the committee. The report that comes to me is as follows:
The records of the Coast and Geodetic Survey show Providence has the record high level of sea water on the east coast-15.6 feet above mean high water.
Do you know anything about that? Can you comment on it, or possibly the Governor?
Governor ROBERTS. I am certain that is correct.
Mayor REYNOLDS. That is about right, Senator, as far as I know. It is about correct.
Senator LEHMAN. About correct?
Mayor REYNOLDS. Yes.
Senator LEHMAN. That does show an unusual situation in Providence and unusual needs.
Governor ROBERTS. In the 1938 hurricane it was at least that high.
Senator LEHMAN. That is tremendous. There is a tremendous difference between that and the mean high on the coast.
Thank you very much.
Senator LEHMAN. I understand the mayor of Woonsocket is here. We will hear from him next. I would ask in the interest of saving some time, since we have a large number of other witnesses, that Mr. William S. Farrell, executive director of the Industrial Development Foundation of Greater Woonsocket, also come and sit at the witness table.
Mayor, we are very glad indeed to hear your statement. Have you a formal statement ?
STATEMENT OF KEVIN K. COLEMAN, MAYOR, WOONSOCKET, R. I.,
AND WILLIAM S. FARRELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION OF GREATER WOONSOCKET
Mayor COLEMAN. I have; yes, Senator.
Mayor COLEMAN. I do not, but I will be only too happy to see to it that you and your committee members do receive copies. .
Senator LEHMAN. Thank you. Will you proceed?
Mayor COLEMAN. Senator Lehman, Members of the Congress, Governor Roberts, on behalf of the city of Woonsocket I should like first to express appreciation for being accorded the opportunity and privilege of addressing the committee on the nationally significant subject of disaster insurance.
Obviously, our interest and concern in the matter are intense. They stem from the fact that Woonsocket, as many other communities throughout the country, has been exposed in recent years to a series of natural phenomena which threatened the lives of its citizens and seriously jeopardized its economy.
Specifically, reference is made to the several hurricanes which have occurred and, more particularly, to the floods which have devastated the area intermittently and with increasing extremity since the turn of the century. In this regard, an abundance of data are available. Certain of these have been or will be presented by other participants in this hearing. All, I am sure, are known to this committee.
In any event, it is a matter of record and can be stated without exaggeration that the impact of these occurrences upon the community has been tremendous. Numerous industries and commercial establishments as well as many residences have been inundated repeatedly. Losses in terms of property damage, lost production, and rehabilitătion expenditures have been staggering.
The indirect effects upon the operation of municipal government in the form of reduced payrolls, diminished tax revenue and increased relief costs have proven burdensome to the point of restricting or prohibiting expenditures for normal operations as well as for urgently needed improvements.
Further, direct losses resulting from damage to and destruction of public facilities have been enormous in relation to the size and character of our community. In this respect remedial measures have been instituted to the extent that they are available and applicable.
A flood-control project has been authorized for the upper reach of the Blackstone River in Woonsocket as a result of the joint effort of Federal, State, city, and private interests. Its early construction is contingent only upon the necessary congressional appropriation. In light of the events of August 1955, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has been asked to review its previous studies of the lower portion of the Blackstone as well as the Mill River against the possibility that corrective measures may now be warranted contrary to its earlier conclusions.
Similarly, we are prepared to execute such additional preventive actions as may be indicated with respect to other types of disaster as rapidly as they are demonstrated to be appropriate. We recognize, however, that the planning, design, and development of such devices are necessarily time-consuming. At this stage, therefore, we are deeply concerned with the institution of any measures which will prevent or diminish future losses, insure continuing job opportunity, afford stabilization and expansion of commerce and industry, or otherwise may be beneficial.
Mindful of these and related factors, it is understandable that the people of Woonsocket are enthusiastically receptive to the possibilities of disaster insurance, also that they are extremely desirous of having it made available as promptly as possible consistent with sound economic principles.
Admittedly, our knowledge of the subject is limited. Moreover, cognizance is taken of the many complex technical involvements attendant upon such a vast undertaking: Nonetheless, it is our feeling that certain courses should be pursued by the Federal Government as promptly and vigorously as is possible. They are:
1. That the most feasible means of providing disaster insurance at nonprohibitive rates be determined and that it be made obtainable by interested parties without delay.
2. That authorization be granted and adequate appropriations be made to improve the acquisition and distribution of scientific data as they relate to the detection of and warning against potential disasters.
3. That programs of preventive and protective construction be continued and that they be expanded and accelerated.
It is our emphatic opinion that these measures not only will minimize hazard to life and property but they also will provide the means of recovery which are imperative if commerce, industry, and residential investors are to survive and prosper.
Thank you, Senator.
Mr. FARRELL. Senator, the scope of my testimony is limited to the extent that other organizations in the city are going to give testimony on the relation of the need for flood insurance to their program. And even as to our program I have limited my prepared statement to the immediate need for the enactment of flood insurance to further the progress of our particular program.
I have with me some brochures which relate to my testimony, and I would like to distribute them to the members of the committee if I may.
Mr. Chairman, the Industrial Development Foundation of Greater Woonsocket is a community organization dedicated to promoting the economic well-being of industry already operating in the area and to attracting new industry to the city to provide employment for those displaced by textile removals. The industries we would induce to move to Woonsocket are the growth industries that are sparking the economy or other regions of the country.
Some of these we consider to be electronics, computing machines, instruments, and measuring devices and pharmaceuticals. Aware that clean, light buildings are a necessity for some, we are developing new construction in an industrial park that is free of any flood threat.
However, not all industries in various stages of growth can afford the cost of new construction and we are fortunate to have some excellent existing structures for rent or for sale in the city itself. To promote the sale or lease of these, the foundation prepared a brochure describing each property in detail and picturing the buildings and typical floors. Of the buildings we have to offer today, 6 were damaged by flood.
An idle mill known as the Rhode Island Rayon property offering a total of 250,000 square feet of floor area suffered damage to the plant and the loss of railroad-siding services because of the destruction of a trestle over the Blackstone River.
The Clinton Mill, Clinton Street, Woonsocket, had 7 feet of water on the lower floor.
The former American Paper Tube plant on Hazel Street received severe first floor damage to plant and heating equipment. The plant is vacant. After flood damage, it was sold at public auction for approximately $30,000 less than at a sale a year before.
The handsome Nyanza Mill with 4 floors of 70,000 square feet each with 14-foot ceiling clearances and bays 25 feet by 1012 feet was damaged structurally to the extent of $35,000 on the ground floor. Boilers and compressors were incapacitated and caused work stoppages on upper floors that cost the community heavily in payroll losses.
The Riverside plant on Fairmount Street was inundated on the lower floor and basement. Damage to the real estate was not so serious as the dislocation to a textile manufacturer who suffered machinery and inventory losses in the thousands of dollars and a work stoppage of many weeks.
An occupant of a 125,000-square-foot building in the former Guerin Mills whom the foundation induced to move to Woonsocket lost $350,000 in inventory and machinery. A payroll of about $8,000 per week has yet to be resumed. Other buildings in the Guerin group now owned by Millville Realty, Inc., who purchased for the purpose of lease or sale to diversified industries, were wrecked on the lower floors and restoration costs will be in the vicinity of $35,000.
Our organization has the job of selling the city to industry. Adequate flood controls in the Blackstone River Valley are absolutely essential if we are to find occupants for these buildings. These controls we are determined to get, but perhaps not soon enough to continue our work of planned economic development. If we must