Charles County government has doled out $3.8 million in recovery and cleanup costs for the April 28 tornado, fiscal services officials told county commissioners Tuesday.
With the state spending about $2.4 million, the state and county expenses for the F4-rated storm that cut a 24-mile swath through Charles totaled about $6 million as of Dec. 6, officials said.
"Tornadoes are expensive," Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large) said. "That's that lesson."
The tornado killed five people and destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Southern Maryland. Much of La Plata's commercial center was leveled.
In the seven months since the storm, the county has spent about $3.4 million to cover costs such as debris removal, county and contract labor and road repair. It gave $150,000 to assist the relief efforts in the town of La Plata and $80,000 to help farmers who sustained damages.
The county also promised $125,000 as its 25 percent match for the emergency watershed protection program, which helped restore vegetation and clear out the waterways in the county's stream corridors and low drainage areas to prevent other hazards.
Significant sums of money from emergency aid agencies has helped the county offset those costs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Maryland Emergency Management Agency have given the county $1 million and $400,000, respectively, for emergency response needs in the 30 days immediately after the storm.
But not all reimbursements have been as timely. So far, the county's insurance company has paid only the deductibles for repairs on damaged county vehicles, including those from the sheriff's office. The county is still waiting for money to cover the damage to many of its buildings.
Officials estimate the county will receive $406,000 from insurance. If the company denies some of the claims, county grants coordinator Melissa Johnson will have to file the claims through FEMA.
"I may be working on tornado [expenses] for another year," she told commissioners.
County officials also are waiting to see whether the $235,000 put into a Senate appropriations bill by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) materializes, County Administrator Eugene T. Lauer said. The bill was not enacted before Congress adjourned. If the funds do come through, they will be used to recoup debris and tree stump removal costs, Lauer said.
At their meeting Tuesday, county leaders also learned that the Maryland Department of Transportation helped remove debris from 428 properties in Charles and Calvert counties. The department's final report on its debris removal program, which ended Nov. 15, stated that crews had removed 510,000 tons of debris and 1,506 uprooted stumps, grinding an additional 3,260 stumps that remained rooted in the ground.
Debris removal cost MDOT an estimated $2 million, said Stephen E. Allen Sr., director of the department's Office of Emergency Management and Safety.