Flood damage more widespread than 2007

Flood damage more widespread than 2007 »Play Video
Walt Dyches is seen outside his flood-damaged Tacoma home on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009.

TACOMA, Wash. -- As the first day of flood damage assessments drew to a close, a grim picture emerged.

Federal inspectors say the destruction is more widespread than the December 2007 storms. The last storm left such a wide trail of destruction that on Tuesday inspectors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency only had time to drive by the sites.

For families in crisis, the long wait is hard to take.

Walt Dyches and his family lost everything when the Puyallup River swamped their Tacoma home.

"It was up to, right up to the water line, and 12 inches in the house," he said. "Looked outside and within two hours, it was up, coming in the front porch."

Dyches ripped out the soaked drywall, but damage still stretches through the house.

"It's just a mess, a disaster everywhere in the bathroom," he said.

Dyches' floors are a total loss and beneath that, flood waters still linger days after they arrived.

So far 16 counties in the state have reported flood damage, and government agencies are tallying up the number of affected families.

"A lot of these people who are impacted are people of modest incomes," said Steve Bailey of Pierce County Emergency Management.

Disaster agencies say teams are tallying the damage, but work will be slow-going since the impacted area is so widespread. They're asking for the flood victims' help to speed up the process.

"We're asking citizens to call your local emergency management offices with any damages you have from the storm event, even if you have insurance," said Kurt Hardin of the state Emergency Management Division.

Dyches called, and he said he got the runaround.

"Basically when you make a phone call, they give you a list of phone numbers to make a phone call to get another list of phone numbers, and that's all I've got," he said.

Disaster workers said it will take time to know which counties, if any, will qualify for FEMA assistance.

Dyches said it will be hard to get by while officials sort it out, and wished he'd be given a little more direction.

"I think that something could have been done a little sooner," he said.

But the wait could be long. Some have yet to receive their FEMA dollars promised after the 2006 floods.

Renters and residents who have flood insurance are urged to report damages to FEMA, though federal assistance is not guaranteed.