Good News and Bad News for Fall Pheasant Stocking

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has some updated figures on the number of pheasants lost due to flooding.  They’ve recovered about 8 to 9 thousand of the birds they thought were lost to flooding from Tropical Storm Lee. Those birds were still running around outside the holding pens.  In addition,   there was not quite as much damage to two of the agency’s game farms in Lycoming County as first feared.

Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser says the flooding at the Loyalsock and Northcentral game farms did not impact core equipment or resources they will need to ramp up pheasant production next year.  They expect to take the number of birds to the 200,000 level.

Feaser says some of the buildings, like the hatcheries, just got a little flood water inside, and need clean up.  For the most part, all of the mechanized and computerized equipment escaped damage.  He says the barns, workshops, farm equipment and water lines in the fields were all relatively untouched.

However, because of the loss of about 31,000 pheasants, they’ll only be able to stock about 74 thousand birds this year. The commission had planned to stock just over 100,000.

***Photo of Ring Necked Pheasant by Joe Kosack/PGC Photo

Hazard Mitigation Is Part of Post-Flood Follow Up

In the aftermath of a disaster, clean up is the main focus.  But officials are already looking at ways they can prevent some of the devastating flooding from happening again.   Tropical Storm Lee brought more than a foot of rain to parts of Pennsylvania, but some of the flooding was made worse by other factors according to Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Glen Cannon.

Cannon says the levees along the Susquehanna did protect a number of people, but the system being incomplete caused severe damage for other people.  He says it funneled the water down into a channel, increasing the speed and causing the water to back up into other tributaries above those levees, and flood in places that had never been flooded before.

Cannon says PEMA is actively working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on hazard mitigation.  He says they don’t want to wait until the disaster is over.

Cannon says as they figure out the dollar value of the disaster, which is going to be hundreds of millions of dollars, ten percent of it will be given back in the form of money to be used for disaster mitigation projects across the Commonwealth.

Cannon says hazard mitigation applications must come to PEMA from the local and county governments. He adds a county must have its own mitigation plan to be eligible to receive some of the funding.  But he says that should not be a problem in Pennsylvania. The state hired a contractor to work with the counties to make sure their plans were in place.

Cannon spoke at a recent joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which is considering a state disaster assistance program to fill the gap when disaster fall below the federal threshold for aid.

Heavy Rains Boost Mosquito Population

If you’ve been swatting more mosquitoes lately, you can lay some of the blame on Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.   The back to back storms left a lot of standing water, where mosquitoes are likely to breed.

 Kevin Sunday, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, says they started noticing more mosquitoes showing up in some of the traps in the north central and south central parts of the state. In one trap, which usually caught 25 mosquitoes, was capturing in the hundreds, and in some occasions in the thousands of mosquitoes.  

Sunday says they were seeing about 25% more of the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus before the storms, since the flooding there’s been another increase of about 10%.

DEP has been doing extra control operations across the state to bring the mosquito population down. That effort will continue for another month. PEMA and the state Department of Health had asked DEP to collaborate and do additional sprayings.

Sunday says people can help by eliminating as much of the standing water around their properties as possible. He says wheelbarrows, jammed gutters and even overturned Frisbees can collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed.

Sunday adds that people should also take steps to keep mosquitoes out of their homes, checking to make sure screens are intact. He says wear long sleeves and use insect repellant when you have to work outdoors in the evening when mosquitoes are out.

Tougher Teen Driver Law Wins Final Legislative Approval

The house has concurred with senate amendments, giving final approval to a bill to boost teen driver safety.   Representative Kathy Watson (R-Bucks) has been trying to strengthen the teen driver law since 2005, she says the greatest distraction is other teens in the vehicle. 

The senate watered down the key provision limiting passengers for new drivers; it will apply to the first six months of a junior license instead of the full term. However, the senate added a reporting requirement. There will be a biannual report done on the legislation to see how it’s working, and whether the state has reduced the number of crashes and deaths for 16 and 17 year old drivers and passengers.

HB9  limits teen drivers to a single non family passenger for the first six months. If they have a clean driving record at that point, they’d be allowed to have up to three young people who are not their family members in the vehicle with them.

The bill also makes seatbelt violations a primary offense for drivers and passengers under 18. Watson says that means a police officer can stop a young driver if they or their passengers under age 18 are not buckled up.  She says 50% of those who have died in crashes in this age group were not wearing seatbelts.

The measure also adds 15 hours-10 of night time and five of inclement weather driving-to the current 50 hour training requirement for a junior license.

Watson   says studies show a 16-year-old’s chance of dying in a crash increases with each passenger added to the vehicle. She believes the bill gives families a better tool to construct whatever rules they feel are important for their teen driver. She expects the governor will sign it into law.

GOP, Women Boost Corbett’s Poll Numbers

Governor Tom Corbett’s approval ratings have reached the elusive 50% mark, according to today’s Quinnipiac Poll.  “Governor Corbett’s batting average with Republicans and women in the state have surged 11 percentage points,” says Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy, who notes that today’s 50 – 32 mark is Corbett’s best to date. 

“Compared to slumping GOP governors in other swing states, he’s headed to the all-star game,” Malloy says. “The governor’s having a good month.  People are gravitating toward him.”  In Ohio, a recent Quinnipiac Poll shows Governor John Kasich under water with a negative 40 – 49 job approval rating.  In Florida, 50% of voters disapprove of the job that Governor Rick Scott is doing. 

“Whatever’s happened in the past few weeks… it may be the flooding, the way he handled that, it may be that people are just warming up to him.  He’s had a good week here,” Malloy said of Corbett’s surge. However, Corbett’s support wanes when voters are asked they like his policies.  42% said they “like” Corbett’s policies, 37% responded “don’t like.”

Rain Increases Flooding Threat Again

Some areas that had barely dried out after Tropical Storm Lee were getting hit with flooding again as a low pressure system brought showers and heavy downpours to parts of Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday. The eastern half of the state was under flash flood watches and warnings.

Flooding was reported in Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Counties, areas that had been hit earlier this month by Lee. Flood warnings were also issued for parts of Columbia, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Schuylkill, Snyder, Northumberland, Cumberland, Perry, York, Montour, Sullivan, Tioga, Lycoming and Union counties.

Charles Ross, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in State College, says the ground is still very saturated, and it doesn’t take a lot of rain to cause flooding. A low pressure system to the west brought moisture from the south with rain showers and embedded heavier thunderstorms.

Ross says August was already a wet month, and then we had Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. He says that raised the risk for quick rises on streams, creeks and rivers in areas hit by heavy downpours. He says the rainfall amounts from this system are not anywhere near the level of Lee, but some areas were getting 3-6 inches.

Ross says the rain should start moving out Thursday and by the weekend, it will feel like fall.

Committees Discuss Possible State Disaster Assistance Fund, Prevention is also Highlighted

Disaster relief is not only a matter of picking up the pieces from the last severe storm or event, but looking at ways to prevent some of the problems the next time.  State lawmakers heard that message this week as they talked about the idea of a state disaster assistance fund. They’re  considering a fund that would help in recovery, when the threshold for federal aid is not reached.  

Any discussion of a small disaster program should also focus on prevention according to David Sanko, director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.  He told a joint hearing of the state House and Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees that if municipalities could take preventative action like cleaning out streams and rivers, many flooding disasters could be reduced or eliminated.

 Sanko says the current state Department Environmental Protection process to obtain an emergency permit should be streamlined so that a municipality can go in and take corrective action before, and not after a disaster occurs.  He says the buildup of gravel bars and other items in the stream bed can occur quickly, and increase the possibility of flood damage and its severity.

Sanko says they also recommend DEP amend its regulations to develop a process to preauthorize emergency issuance of all general permits needed to allow municipalities to remove all impediments, such as fallen trees or gravel bars which occur suddenly.  He says DEP should consider using flood prevention money to pay for stream cleanup that they oversee and control.  He says local governments should not have to go through the permitting process, and then foot the bill to alleviate flooding hazards in their community.

Sanko says it’s a matter of prioritizing.  He says prevention is a lot less expensive than cleanup.

First Lady Helps Turn Capitol Fountain Pink


First Lady Susan Corbett

First Lady Suan Corbett

Pink is the Color of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the pink fountain is a visual reminder of the importance of mammograms and early detection.  “When you see the pink fountain outside, I hope you all remember that we can beat this disease if we take the time to have that early screening,” says First Lady Susan Corbett, who shared her own mother’s breast cancer survival story.  “So I’m going to ask each of you to be that person who takes someone by the hand and encourages them to have a mammogram.” 

The numbers drive home Mrs. Corbett’s point that early detection is the best way to fight the disease.  “When breast cancer is found at its earliest stages – which it can be with a mammogram – the survival rate is 95 – 98%,” PA Breast Cancer Coalition executive director Heather Hibshman explained in an interview with Radio PA. 

Every day 32 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Pennsylvania.  “It blows me away,” Hibshman says.  “Everybody seems to know somebody with breast cancer, and with numbers like that I believe it.  We need to get that number down to zero.” 

Pennsylvania is home to 140,000 breast cancer survivors who will be marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Poll: Pennsylvanians Prefer Current Electoral College System

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that 52% of Pennsylvania voters want to stick with the winner-take-all model, which awards all of Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.  40% of respondents favored a newly proposed plan to award Electoral College votes based on the results in each of the state’s congressional district. 

“The overall state view on this – by a margin of 57 – 32 – is that it is politically motivated.  That Republicans are doing this to get a candidate a better foothold in the state,” says Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy.  There is a political divide on that particular question as 57% of Republicans say the motivation is fairness in reflecting the views of PA voters.  Only 14% of Democrats agreed. 

However, Malloy was struck by the fact that support for the proposed change is merely a toss-up among GOP voters.  “It came down pretty much 50-50 on whether it’s a good idea to change it or not,” Malloy explained while breaking down Republicans’ responses for reporters. 

Asked whether they think the proposed change would affect Pennsylvania’s importance as a key swing state in presidential elections, 51% said it “will hurt” and 38% said it “won’t affect” the state’s clout. 

Republican Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) is sponsoring the proposed change, which has the support of Governor Tom Corbett.  Public hearings are expected next month.  Either way, Pennsylvania will award 20-Electoral Votes in next year’s presidential race.

CDC Report Says Teens Not Getting Enough Sleep, Engaging in More Risk Behaviors

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says most teens are not getting enough sleep at night and that brings a number of risks.   Almost 70% of high school students are not getting the recommended hours of sleep on school nights according to the study based on a national Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Lela McKnight-Eily, the study’s lead author, says the insufficient sleep can increase certain risk behaviors such as substance use, feelings of hopelessness and physical fighting.

McKnight-Eily, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist at CDC, says there may be many factors affecting the lack of sleep. She says there’s a shift in the circadian rhythm that accompanies puberty that makes teens want to go to bed later and wake up later.  She says in addition, they have  increased access to technology, including cell phones, the internet, and television that’s available all night (Moms and Dads- remember when TV stations “signed off” at night?)

 McKnight-Eily says lack of sleep may affect cognitive ability, perhaps leading to high risk behaviors.  She adds that the substance abuse or depression could be leading to the lack of sleep, or could be a form of self-medication due to the lack of sleep. She says with obesity rising, some teens may have underlying health conditions that are affecting their sleep.

McKnight-Eily says there are ways to improve a teen’s sleep. She says having a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep in a dark and quiet environment, removing distractions from the room, avoiding caffeine and stimulating foods several hours before going to sleep and getting adequate exercise can help.  She says it’s important to recognize this as a significant public health problem.