Montclair is still assessing the damage throughout the township caused by unexpected, heavy flooding on Aug. 11.

Montclair, as a flood-affected area, is eligible for disaster relief from FEMA, according to an announcement that the township sent to the public one week after the floods. The township is collecting totals of damaged properties to report to the state as part of the relief application process. The township, and some homeowners and businesses, can expect to receive federal disaster aid money.

Residents are asked to report storm damage to Montclair Fire Chief John Herrmann.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 21, only three households had reported damage to their homes, Herrmann said. One likely explanation was that over the years, residents had installed sump pumps and French drains to help lessen damage.

According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines, if a property owner files an application for assistance with FEMA, an inspector will come to the site and do an inspection. If the claim is approved, payment will be granted.

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The Bellaire apartment complex at 530 Valley Road saw heavy damage when the underground parking garage flooded. Several vehicles, the elevators, boiler and HVAC system were damaged in the flood, Herrmann said.

Studio Playhouse and at least four businesses in the area of Bloomfield Avenue, South Park Street and Church Street including Java Love, Culture Couture, Lululemon and CVS experienced flood damage.

Volunteers load plywood, set pieces and sodden carpets into a Dumpster outside the Studio Playhouse.
Volunteers load plywood, set pieces and sodden carpets into a Dumpster outside the Studio Playhouse.

At Java Love on Church Street, the cafe was open for business four days after the basement flooded, and most of the tables were filled with customers. The basement doors on the sidewalk stood open, and a fan could be seen running inside.

Lisa Johnson, the owner of Culture Couture, said the shop experienced two inches of water on the main shop floor. But a few days later, the water had been cleaned up and the shop was back in business.

Montclair Film Executive Director Tom Hall said his organization was still waiting on an estimate for the financial cost of the damage to the floor in the screening room and to the ceiling in the Education Center. Repairs to the floor are expected to start next week.

Staff at Lululemon could not comment on the extent of damage, and instead deferred comment to Lululemon’s corporate office.

Studio Playhouse was one of the hardest-hit properties, with the theater on Alvin Street losing nearly its entire stock of props and sets when the basement storage area flooded with four feet of water over the weekend.

The playhouse expects that it will cost $40,000 to replace the boiler, basement level plumbing and slop sink, and to rebuild the shop and the bathroom. This does not include the cost of all the stage sets and props lost in the flooding.

The theater is accepting financial donations, but has advised donors that donations of props, costumes and other items will have to wait until there is a place to keep them.

Katya Wowk, the township communications director, said that the township has not yet put together a full report on the extent of the damage throughout the town.

Homeowner’s insurance policies typically do not cover natural flooding. Flood insurance must be purchased separately through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The program has been in existence since 1968. Homeowners can only buy NFIP insurance through a participating insurance agency. If a homeowner’s insurance agency does not participate in NFIP, homeowners can call NFIP to request a referral to an agent.

Montclair businesses and residents in flood zones surrounding Toney’s Brook, the Third River, the Pearl River and Yantacaw Brook must get flood insurance. Montclair participates in NFIP on the municipal level.

Homeowner’s insurance generally covers damage caused by sewer backups, but not rising water washing through a door or window. Instead, a separate flood insurance policy is needed, according to Maggie Seidel, of the American Insurance Association.

Flood insurance itself has some limitations. For example, according to FEMA’s website, flood insurance will not cover damage caused by mold and mildew if it is deemed that the owner could have taken steps to avoid it.

The building property section of a flood insurance policy, according to FEMA’s guide for property owners, usually covers repairs such as to HVAC systems, boilers and permanently installed appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators. There is a separate personal property section for clothing, electronics and movable furniture, as well as certain kinds of valuables and art valued up to $2,500.

There are three questions homeowners should have when evaluating their flood insurance, said Seidel. The kind of coverage, the deductible amount and coverage of other expenses such as temporary housing if the house is not safe to occupy for a period of time.

More and more homeowners are starting to reevaluate the extent of their insurance coverage.

“Especially now. In the aftermath of events like this, it puts risk at the forefront of people’s minds,” Seidel said.