WASHINGTON -- The raging flood waters that left thousands homeless in the West last winter caused more extensive damage than any other type of presidentially declared natural disaster in 1983, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported Saturday.
But overall, despite an increase in flood insurance claims, the 21 disasters in 1983 did not cause any more damage than the average over the past five years, FEMA officials said in the report.
'This was pretty much of an average year in the disaster game,' said Bob Blair of FEMA, adding that for 'the severity of storms in a concentrated area that rate (of funding) is about average.'
The government will pay $1.1 billion this year under the Disaster Relief Act compared to an average $1.1 billion for 25 disasters each year for the past five years, according to FEMA director Louis Giuffreda.
California, hit by four major floods, suffered more disasters than any other state, and was struck with the single most costly catastrophe - the February rainstorms that caused extensive flooding and mudslides.
For this single catastrophe, over $308 million in relief funding will be spent to help rebuild properties and resettle the 17,000 families who registered in disaster assistance centers, the report said.
The other three natural disasters striking California in 1983 were the earthquake in Coalinga in May, July's flooding along the swollen Colorado River and the flash flooding in southern California in September.
In other parts of the country, after April flood waters ebbed in Louisiana, over 7,000 families sought assistance from the $143 million in federal disaster funds and in the same month 1273 Utah families sought part of the $148 million in federal relief funds.
Floods such as these triggered a record 69,000 claims for flood losses to be filed this year, resulting in settlements of more than $423 million to be paid by the separate National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA reported.
But FEMA spokesman Blair said the 'broad scattered flooding and the inflation rate' could have caused the record numbers of claims this year.