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Brown surveys storm damage in Scituate

Politicians seek money for repairs; community reaches out to help victims

US Senator Scott Brown (center) and state Senator Robert Hedlund visited Carmen Tirado in Scituate yesterday. US Senator Scott Brown (center) and state Senator Robert Hedlund visited Carmen Tirado in Scituate yesterday. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Jessica Bartlett
Globe Correspondent / December 31, 2010

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SCITUATE — Carmen Tirado has been stranded in the cafeteria of Scituate High School for five days. She and her family have been stuck at the town’s evacuee shelter since their house on Jericho Road flooded during Sunday’s nor’easter, and they are still waiting on any sort of aid to come through.

Her daughter, Moraima Tirado, lives with Carmen in the house with her four children and has been shuttling between Scituate and a relative’s one-bedroom apartment in Boston, where the rest of her family is staying. Although the immediate disaster has passed, Moraima Tirado said, the family is still living a nightmare.

“Stressful. Depressing. . . . All my stuff is gone,’’ she said. “All my kids’ stuff is gone. And it’s sad. I’m calling all these agencies, and no one is helping. The Red Cross gave me referrals to make all these calls, but it’s not definite. I really don’t have anywhere to live right now.’’

The Tirados’ situation was among those Senator Scott Brown witnessed during his tour of Scituate yesterday afternoon. The Massachusetts Republican toured the breach of the sea wall caused by the big storm and visited the evacuees remaining at the shelter.

About a dozen people used the shelter and its services yesterday, a sign that several people remain homeless or in need as a result of the weekend storm. The Red Cross is helping with food and beds and with helping to navigate the bureaucracies. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is assessing the damage.

“There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle,’’ Brown said. “We’ll need cooperation from the federal, private, and state agencies to solve the problems, and they are very large.’’

State and local officials say it could cost millions of dollars to repair damage left by the storm, which flooded dozens of residences, cut power to 1,000 residents, severely damaged the sea wall, and led to fires at two waterfront homes.

Peter Judge, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said the state must surpass certain damage thresholds, in the millions of dollars, before federal money can be awarded.

The agency will have a better idea of damage totals by next week, he said. However, sea wall damage is not factored in to overall estimates. That presents a challenge in reaching the threshold, since Scituate’s main problem is the wall’s 60-foot breach.

Even before the recent storm, Scituate was seeking other help. A storm damaged a stretch of the sea wall in 2007, and the town is still waiting for most of the estimated $800,000 in federal help for repairs from that incident.

The federal government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, awarded $100,000 to Scituate in 2007 as part of a small sea wall project. But the rest of the money will not come to the town until it begins the repairs, and the work has not yet started.

“The way FEMA works is the project work has to start before reimbursement can begin. . . . It’s still moving forward,’’ said James Mannion, the state Emergency Management Agency representative for Scituate.

Currently, representatives are working on other avenues of aid to supplement the slow-moving parts of the process.

State Representative James M. Cantwell, Republican of Marshfield, who represents Scituate, is attempting to secure funds from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, an agency that awarded $100,000 to Marshfield for sea wall damage from a storm in May.

In addition, he is hoping to establish a statewide fund in the future to assist with sea wall repairs for other communities.

“There are no current funds available, so what I’m trying to do is go at it from several different angles,’’ he said.

Cantwell is also pushing for more flexibility in Community Preservation Funds, which can only be used for low-income housing, creation of open space and recreation areas, and preservation of historic structures.

In the meantime, Brown and his field representatives collected information from Scituate evacuees to help them contact other government agencies for help.

But as that process continues, some members of the community stepped forward to support their vulnerable neighbors.

After reading a Globe article about Dan and Donna Farrington’s loss of their house, a family in North Scituate offered to let the stranded family stay in their home while they go to Florida for the next four months.

“This family called the Fire Department and asked to help,’’ Donna Farrington said. “Total, absolute strangers that do not know us from anybody are offering, giving us their home until, if we need it, May.’’

For Brown, the story gave him hope for optimism.

“A lot of the folks down there have been saying that they are in fact very grateful for the response the community of Scituate has given them,’’ Brown said. “I mean, someone offered up their home, said, here, take it. . . . You don’t just see that anymore. It’s really refreshing to see and uplifting.’’