WALPOLE — An elderly couple was forced out of their Colonial Drive home this summer after part of its foundation collapsed due to heavy flooding.
Maureen and Roland Caskin, who are in their mid-80s, had to leave their longtime residence after several inches of rain fell on the region on the evening of July 29, according to their daughter, Jody Caskin-Bruzgis. The Caskins were still living elsewhere as of Wednesday while work on the foundation continued, but were slated to move back to Colonial Drive soon, she told The Sentinel.
Caskin-Bruzgis, also of Walpole, said her parents have not received any state or local assistance for the damage, which is estimated at $60,000. Their insurance provider declined to cover the repairs, she said, claiming the storms were an “act of God.”
As of Friday afternoon, an online fundraiser to support the repair work on the Caskins’ home had raised more than $20,000.
“As you can imagine, this is an extreme hardship for a retired couple on a fixed income,” the GoFundMe page states.
At least some help may be on the way, though, after President Joe Biden declared the late-July rainstorm a major disaster on Monday, releasing federal assistance meant to help municipalities and homeowners affected by the flooding.
Under the declaration, which Gov. Chris Sununu had requested last month for Cheshire and Sullivan counties, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can help rebuild or replace damaged homes, it announced in a news release Tuesday.
That assistance is also available to homeowners affected by a July 17-19 storm that caused similarly heavy flooding in the region, spokesman Michael Burns said Friday. Biden approved a separate disaster declaration, specific to Cheshire County, for that storm last month.
Among the options for eligible homeowners, HUD can insure mortgages used to buy a new house or carry out major repairs, according to Tuesday’s news release. The department has also halted all foreclosures on area homes with federally backed mortgages, it announced.
In his request for a disaster declaration for the late-July storm, Sununu said many Monadnock Region homes had sustained “substantial damage” in the summer floods, which also washed out roads and battered other infrastructure.
Sununu cited one resident who estimated $50,000 in damage to their foundation and another who reported four feet of water in their basement, causing $25,000 in total damage. (It’s unclear from the governor’s letter whether the Caskins were either example.)
“These residents, like many others, did not have adequate flood insurance on their structures/for their belongings and therefore must pay for these costs out of pocket,” he wrote. “Additionally, residents that did have flood insurance and experienced damages such as driveway washouts and culvert losses were deemed ineligible by the insurance companies because the policies in play do not cover the type of flood damages the residents received. This has created a significant financial hardship for these individuals.”
The two July storms, the second of which carried into early August, caused a combined $5.5 million in federally verified damage in Cheshire, Hillsborough and Sullivan counties, according to Sununu, who said the total cost is likely to be even higher. The funds awarded as a result of Biden’s disaster declaration will largely be used to repair roads, culverts and bridges.
Several homes in Jaffrey were damaged due to the flooding this summer, which carried an “extreme amount of water” off the local roads, Town Manager Jon Frederick said Wednesday.
Frederick noted that state officials have been unable to provide relief for all those affected, instead focusing on infrastructure repairs and directing residents to their local welfare offices and the American Red Cross. But with the prospect of federal aid, he said, those people may now get some help rebuilding.
“I’m sure that’s who it would go to,” he said.
Caskin-Bruzgis said Wednesday she wasn’t sure whether her parents will apply for the HUD assistance. She wants to learn more about the programs before moving ahead with that process, she said. But the federal relief raises the potential of at least limited help.
“I honestly had given up hope on any assistance from the State or Walpole,” she said in a text message.