Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, warning that several emergency shelters had been rendered unreachable by flooding and that dams were at risk of failing, asked President Obama on Tuesday to declare a major federal disaster in New York State.
At Mr. Cuomo’s request, Mr. Obama declared a federal emergency in New York on Friday. A major disaster declaration would significantly broaden the financial assistance available to the state as it cleans up from the storm.
The governor also announced that he had established a 12-person commission of state officials to coordinate the response to Tropical Storm Irene. He flew from Albany to the Adirondacks to survey severe flooding resulting from the storm, which dumped record rainfall on large portions of upstate New York on Sunday.
The governor’s trip, to the towns of Keene and Jay, in Essex County, was his third visit to a flood-stricken area in the past three days. He wrote to Mr. Obama that on his visits, he had witnessed “hundreds of private homes either destroyed or with major damage and an enormous amount of public infrastructure damage.”
“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments,” Mr. Cuomo added, “and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary.”
In his letter, Mr. Cuomo described four towns or villages — Fleischmanns, Margaretville, Prattsville and Windham — simply as “underwater.” He said at least 4,800 people were staying in 70 shelters across the state, some of which had been isolated because of flooding and could not be reached with fresh supplies of food and water. And he warned that two dams were at risk of failure: the Gilboa Dam, in Schoharie County, and the Vischer Ferry Dam on the Mohawk River.
Across the state, electrical workers continued to try to reach downed power lines on Tuesday, with limited success. In the morning, 528,000 customers remained without power across the state; by late in the afternoon, that number had fallen to 470,000. But the Cuomo administration warned that some customers in rural parts of the state could be without power into next week.