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Crowd questions officials on Whatcom County flooding, response

A crowd gathered in Everson Wednesday for a community meeting about Whatcom County’s catastrophic flooding and efforts to help the region recover.

EVERSON, Wash. — A crowd gathered in Everson on Wednesday for a community meeting about Whatcom County’s catastrophic flooding and efforts to help the region recover.

“We need to pull together like the community has and look at some permanent solutions,” said Sumas Mayor Kyle Christensen.

Many people asked why FEMA has not rushed in to help.

State emergency managers said they must assess the damage and then make a compelling case to FEMA for why this disaster qualifies for federal assistance. That process can take weeks or months, and there's a lot of back and forth between FEMA and the state over what counts as damage.

“There is no guarantee that even if we got a few hundred houses meeting that threshold of major damage or totally destroyed, that FEMA help is automatically coming,” cautioned Robert Ezelle, Washington’s Emergency Management Director.

Others insisted there must be a long-term plan or solution to prevent future flooding, like river dredging.

Whatcom County's Public Works director said dredging will not prevent flooding from happening during a major rainfall event like the region experienced last week.

Officials told the crowd money had been set aside to help remove debris and provide temporary housing, but many meeting attendees worry the region will need a lot more help in the coming months.

“It’s real easy to say we’re going to look at all the options, but every single elected official is accountable for our actions, as well as our words, so that’s what I would ask you guys, we need to be held accountable, I need to be held accountable, and we need to do everything we can for you,” Christensen said.