When Tom Hooper bought a home on Big Bend Drive in Des Plaines, he knew it had flooded at least once before during a 100-year storm event.
After 13 years and more than $300,000 in flood-related repairs, the 69-year-old Hooper said he's had enough.
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His was one of the first homes to flood after the April 17 storm that damaged nearly 2,000 properties in Des Plaines. The water engulfed Hooper's detached garage, drowning his van, and reached up to the first floor of his home.
A general contractor by profession, Hooper has cleaned the interior of his home and rewired the house for electricity. The water heater and furnaces are all that remain to be fixed.
"After that, they can have it," Hooper said of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's buyout program. "I ain't fixing anything anymore. Who wants this place? It floods all the time."
Built in the late 1960s, 19 homes along Big Bend Drive are now part of a floodway and have been eligible for the FEMA buyout since 2008 flooding. The approval of funding for the buyouts could depend on whether a federal disaster declaration is made for the April 17 flood, officials said.
A team of local, state and federal officials Tuesday toured flood-damaged homes along Big Bend Drive -- one of the hardest hit areas in Des Plaines -- and homes and businesses in Wheeling and unincorporated Cook County to assess the extent of damages. Officials toured flood-affected areas in DuPage and Lake counties Monday.
"This is one of the first steps. All of that information feeds into what goes to the governor and he requests a federal disaster declaration," said Cassie Ringsdorf, a FEMA spokeswoman.
Ringsdorf said officials gather as much information as possible on the number of homes damaged, the severity of the damage, the number of people displaced, housing resources in the area, and the extent of resources available and expended by municipalities during flood response.
Insurance rates factor into how much financial assistance homeowners are eligible for as FEMA cannot duplicate benefits covered by insurance policies, she said.
Officials also will try to determine how the flooding affected special groups, such as the elderly, low-income households, the unemployed and immigrant populations, Ringsdorf said.
It will be weeks before they are finished assessing damages to homes, small businesses and public sector buildings.
A federal disaster declaration is essential for homeowners and businesses to be able to obtain not only FEMA assistance grants but also low-interest loans to make repairs, said Guy Mosier, a construction analyst for the Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Team, a separate federal agency that works with FEMA on disaster assistance.
"If a presidential or SBA declaration is granted, they need to apply whether they think they qualify or not," he said.
Homeowners would be eligible for up to $250,000, and businesses up to $2 million in loans for flood repairs.