Didn’t get a lot of blogging in today as I continued pitching in with our Irene coverage here at WPRI 12. But I did join Senator Reed and Congressman Cicilline this afternoon for an aerial tour of the damage.
As I mentioned during our 6 p.m. newscast, what was most noticeable to me was how little damage you could see from up in the air. There were damaged trees all over the place, but few signs of significant destruction to property and power lines – certainly nothing that would make you guess more than half the state didn’t have power. That said, another reporter noted the roads weren’t too busy, particularly on Aquidneck Island, and many parking lots were empty in areas without power.
After the flight, Reed told me he was relieved to see the coastal areas weren’t too badly damaged. He also noted a big difference from the floods, which was the lack of impact on sewage facilities. Local officials know the ins and outs of how to apply for federal disaster aid because of the flooding, too, he pointed out. (The senator’s house didn’t have power back yet as of this afternoon.)
The lack of damage and the beautiful day did allow me to take some nice pictures using my iPhone while we were up in the air – check out this photo gallery of them I put up on WPRI.com.
In addition, here’s an article I wrote today about the significant costs cities and towns face from Irene, with details from Providence, Cranston and Pawtucket:
City and town budgets across Rhode Island, already squeezed by the economic downturn, took another hit this weekend when Tropical Storm Irene ripped through the state.
Municipal officials said their only concern right now is ensuring public safety and speeding the cleanup. But they acknowledged it won’t be cheap to cover storm-related costs like round-the-clock overtime shifts for police, fire and other workers.
“It will put more pressure on their budgets, and from my perspective this means you’d better manage the funding for the remainder of the year, for snow removal and the rest,” said John Simmons, executive director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council think-tank and a former Providence official.
Local officials have little control over their costs during the storm, but they can make choices afterwards about how much to spend, Simmons said. “The first piece of this is to open up and clear the roads,” he said. “Once you do that you can be more thoughtful about, what do you with it when you move it to the side? Do [workers] do it on straight time or time-and-a-half? Those are the choices you make.”
Read the rest here.