Isaac Makes Landfall, Begins Slow Move Inland

On the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana finds itself dealing with another storm as Hurricane Isaac made landfall overnight. The storm was a category 1 hurricane when it hit the coast and maintained that status during the hours that followed.

Here in Pennsylvania, forecasters will be watching the storm’s projected path as it moves first into the Midwest and then takes an expected eastward turn this weekend. The remnants of Isaac could impact the mid-Atlantic region, but much depends on upper level winds. The National Weather Service expects to have a better idea of the potential impact later in the week.

Parts of Pennsylvania are still recovering from last year’s devastating hurricane season, when Hurricane Irene swept up the East Coast in August, followed by the remnants of Lee, which drenched central and northeastern PA with more than a foot of rain over three days in September.


Public Utility Commission Continues Review of Storm Power Outages

Between the end of August and end of October, Pennsylvania was hit by a hurricane, tropical storm and October snowstorm.  The state Public Utility Commission is still reviewing the impact on the power grid.

The PUC held a special electric reliability forum in October.  While the majority of customers had service restored in 48 hours, some people were out of service for days. During a recent house budget hearing, the commission was asked about right-of-way maintenance. 

Commissioner Wayne Gardner says trees in the right-of-way are not the only problem.  He says on average more than 40% of the time customers are without power is due to trees and vegetation outside of the right-of-way.  He says he has personally viewed trees that were out of a right-of-way by some 60 feet that were about 100 feet high and capable of taking down three or four poles at a time.

Utilities already have right-of-way maintenance programs.  They’ve been asked to look at the issue of trees that are outside of their control, and make some recommendations to the PUC for how to approach the problem.  Gardner hopes the commission will have some recommendations this summer.

One state representative suggested that tree and vegetation issues might be better solved locally by a Shade Tree Commission.

FEMA Urges People to Resolve to be Prepared in 2012

The Federal Emergency Management Agency wants everyone to make a resolution to be better prepared in 2012.   Administrator Craig Fugate says if you do nothing else, visit and book mark the page.

Fugate says the first step for preparedness is to develop a family communication plan. He says in an emergency, cell phone systems can be overloaded and texting or posting to a social network site may be the better way to keep in touch.  He says that also cuts congestion on the cell network to allow emergency calls to get through.

 Emergencies can strike with little warning, and unexpected situations can develop within an emergency.   Fugate says you need to know what you’d do if you had to shelter in place, or evacuate in a moment’s notice.   

Fugate says as we saw in Pennsylvania, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee came up and caused flooding in places that had been spared by Hurricane Irene.  He doesn’t think people were necessarily expecting that. He says even with a good forecast, we don’t always know what’s going to happen.

Fugate says emergency plans should include your pets and anyone in your household with special needs in addition to basic needs.

Fugate says if you have a plan, you can secure your family in an emergency then reach out to your neighbors.  He says he has seen in time and time again.  Across the southeast during the tornadoes, and during the tropical season all the way up to Vermont, a lot of the help people got came from their neighbors.   He says their neighborhoods were digging them out debris, giving first aid or providing comfort until emergency responders could arrive.

Farm Bureau Asks Milk Marketing Board to Keep Premium in Place

Dairy farmers are asking for some more breathing room.   The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has told the Milk Marketing Board that severe weather has affected crops used to feed dairy cows. 

They want the current over order premium price to stay at $2.15 per hundredweight for the six months starting in January.  Mark O’Neill of the Farm Bureau says they’re also asking the board to maintain the current premium price add on for fuel costs.

 O’Neill says a wet spring, dry summer, then Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee affected the crops used for dairy feed and that’s expected to impact production costs for farmers.   Crops did not get planted on time in some areas.  When the hurricane and flooding hit, some of those crops were damaged and others could not be harvested because of the weather.

O’Neill says even though the price dairy farmers are receiving for milk is pretty good right now, the cost of producing it is at historically high levels. He says the devastating weather has made feed much more expensive and the situation is expected to continue into next year.

O’Neill says a lot of farmers say the weather is the worst they’ve experienced in their lifetime or in three or four decades. He says all of the weather factors have hurt the bottom line of those who produce feed stock to sell on the open market as well as dairy farmers who were trying to produce feed for their own livestock.

If the Milk Marketing Board approves the requests, consumers would see no price change for milk as a result of the action.

Deadline Extended to Register with FEMA For Aid for Irene, Lee

People who live or have businesses in Pennsylvania’s disaster declared counties will now get more time to seek help for losses  from Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee.    

December 14th is the new deadline to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help in recovering from losses from the storms. That’s a one month extension from the original November 14th deadline. 

It’s also the new deadline for those who have applied to return their SBA Loan applications, crucial in the next step to receiving assistance.

Through November 4th, over 88 thousand households have registered with FEMA and over 122 million dollars in grants have been approved. Almost 54 million in Small Business Administration loans have been approved for renters, homeowners and business owners affected by Irene or Lee.

FEMA spokeswoman Susan Solomon says you can always turn down the help if you find you don’t need it. The number to call is 1-800-621-3362.

Solomon says there are a lot of people who feel they can take care of themselves and they don’t want to take help away from anyone else.  She says when you register with FEMA, it does not add to or take away from what anyone else might receive in disaster assistance.

Solomon says there are also people who may be waiting for their insurance settlement.  She says they want those people to also register with FEMA. It will allow them to be eligible for certain types of help in case something goes wrong with their insurance settlement.

Tens of Thousands of Pennsylvanians Register with FEMA for Irene and Lee Damage

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians in 28 disaster-declared counties have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.   However, time is running short for anyone else to register if they think they may need help recovering from the storms.  The deadline is November 14th and the application for an SBA loan is also due by that date.

FEMA spokeswoman Susan Solomon says you can always turn down the help if you find you don’t need it. The number to call is 1-800-621-3362.

Solomon says there are a lot of people who feel they can take care of themselves and they don’t want to take help away from anyone else.  She says when you register with FEMA, it does not add to or take away from what anyone else might receive in disaster assistance.

Solomon says there are also people who may be waiting for their insurance settlement.  She says they want those people to also register with FEMA. It will allow them to be eligible for certain types of help in case something goes wrong with their insurance settlement.

More than 85 thousand households have registered and FEMA has already approved over 115 million in disaster assistance grants in Pennsylvania.

Flooded backyard near Goldsboro railroad underpass.


Students who were hit hard financially by flooding from Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee might be able to get additional state grant money to help with higher education costs.    The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency has a process that allows grant award applicants to submit a casualty loss form for reconsideration of state grant awards when they’re affected by a disaster.

PHEAA spokesman Mike Reiber says the process applies to those who received grant awards and even those who applied, but did not receive an award. However, those who did not apply for a state grant for the current academic year will not be able to seek the extra assistance.

Reiber says if a disaster affects a student’s ability to pay for their education, they should learn more about submitting a casualty loss form. He says they may be eligible for an increase in their award to help them through this difficult time.

Reiber says he was a victim of Agnes flooding in 1972, so he understands that it can be very devastating and it’s encouraging for these students to know there may be some help available.

The forms are available at

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.

Bloomsburg Flood - Tropical Storm Lee

$47-Million Already Approved for PA Flood Victims


The number of Disaster Recovery Centers has more than doubled since Governor Tom Corbett first made the announcement on Sept. 14th.

Federal and state officials have nearly tripled the number of Disaster Recovery Centers operating in flood ravaged parts of the state.  The number now stands at 18.  FEMA spokesman Eugene Brezany is in the field in central Pennsylvania, and says those DRCs have been busy.  “A lot of people are following up on their application and that’s what we’re there for.” 

Between Tropical Storm Lee and the earlier Hurricane Irene, FEMA has received 29,000 registrations from Pennsylvanians seeking federal assistance.  10,000 Pennsylvania applications have been approved and Brezany says $47-million dollars in aid have been obligated so far.  “It’s moving as fast as it can for somebody.  For everybody, it’s probably not fast enough, but we are certainly moving some funds out the door.” 

No deadline for applications has been established yet, but FEMA won’t be here forever, and Brezany says the sooner flood victims register, the sooner the process can begin. 

The maximum federal grant for disaster assistance is $30,200, but the average runs in the $4,000 to $5,000 dollar range.  “It’s not going to get anybody back to square one, it’s simply designed to get people back on their feet so that they can help themselves,” Brezany explained.  Bills have been introduced in the State Senate, which would pick up where the federal efforts leave off. 

Meanwhile, FEMA officials and Pennsylvania flood victims alike are watching the latest political battle on Capitol Hill.  FEMA’s disaster recovery fund is caught in the middle, and could run dry as early as next week.  It’s not clear what the implications could be for PA flood victims. 

Flood victims are asked to register before they visit a Disaster Recovery Center.  Eligible counties from Tropical Storm Lee include: Adams, Bradford, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming and York.  Eligible counties from Hurricane Irene include: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Philadelphia, Sullivan and Wyoming.