State Officials, Utilities Prepare for Major Storm

Utilities are preparing for the potential of significant damage and power outages as Hurricane Sandy moves up the coast.   They’re bringing in extra crews and following the forecast.

PPL spokesman Joe Nixon says they have sister utilities in Kentucky and they’re already arranging to have them come in. They’re also reaching out  to the western states.

First Energy is taking similar steps.  Spokesman Scott Surgeoner says they’re moving crews in from service areas not impacted by the storm to those areas most likely to be hit.  He says they’re also working with mutual assistance organizations to have additional crews ready to restore service if needed.

The storm will be the first major test for changes made after Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and the October snowstorm last year. First Energy has a 24 hour outage center on its home page that can be accessed by smart phone. The utility has agreements to place staff at a number of county emergency management offices to aid in coordinating power restoration. PPL has added capacity to its customer contact center to better handle high volume periods.

The utilities want people to notify them if their power goes out. Customers of First Energy utilities can call 1-888-544-4877. The number connects to an interactive system. Customers can also use the outage center on line.

PPL customers can call 1-800-342-5775. They can also use the on line outage center.

Despite the best efforts of the utilities, there could be prolonged power outages.  If you lose service, Surgeoner says don’t turn to unsafe methods of keeping warm. He says propane ovens or stoves should not be used to try to heat the house; they can cause carbon monoxide fumes to build up.  He says generators must be installed properly and used in well ventilated areas where fumes cannot come into your living space.

All downed power lines should be treated as live wires. Damaged power lines should be reported to the utility. Downed wires can also be reported to 911.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is also urging residents to prepare.  You can get a check list on line.

Governor Corbett toured areas hit by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last year and urged people to be prepared for this storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging preparations all along the East Coast.

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.

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.

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.

Capitol View from East Wing

Bills Drafted in Response to Massive Floods


Bloomsburg Flood - Tropical Storm Lee

Bloomsburg, Columbia County was among the hardest hit areas.

As recent flooding reached historic proportions in many communities, lawmakers are preparing bills to augment federal disaster aid and speed the recovery process.  “State government will never be the ultimate insurer,” says State Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne).  “But when disaster strikes, it is a core function of government to protect lives & property, to restore public safety & infrastructure, and to provide victims the necessities of life when the emergency robs them of everything they need and value,”

Officials say the seven-bill, bipartisan package should be ready soon, and they expect quick action once it’s been formally introduced. 

One bill would create a special account to provide additional state grant money to eligible flood victims who’ve maxed out their federal aid. 

State Senator John Gordner (R-Columbia)

State Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia)

Another bill would authorize $250-million dollars in bonds to pay to repair flood damaged roads and bridges.  “We will be getting, hopefully, a tremendous amount of federal assistance for the hundreds – maybe thousands – of roads and bridges that have been damaged, but normally the federal government provides about 75% of the funding,” says State Senator John Gordner (R-Columbia), who’s spearheading the effort. 

Three bills in the package would authorize county-by-county lists of flood damaged roads, bridges and flood control systems, adding them to the state’s capital budget. 

Local taxing bodies would have the ability to abate the property taxes on condemned structures, under another bill.  The final bill of the package would allow for educational waivers for things like the 180-instructional day mandate.  “I can tell you that I have at least one school district in my senatorial district that as of today still is not back in school,” Gordner explains.  “That is the Benton Area School District in Columbia County.” 

In addition to Senators Gordner and Baker, John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) and John Blake (D-Lackawanna) are sponsoring parts of the package of bills.  The sponsors have not yet put a price tag on the legislation, but the special account for flood victims would come out of the budget surplus from fiscal year 2010/2011.

Governor Tom Corbett on assistance available to those affected by flood waters in Pennsylvania

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Disaster Recovery Centers Now Open

As Pennsylvanians rebuild from the recent flooding disaster, seven Disaster Recovery Centers have opened in some of the hardest hit areas of the state.  “We are going to have our agencies right in there in these centers, to use it as one-stop shopping as much as we can,” Governor Tom Corbett explained on Radio PA’s monthly Ask the Governor program. 

15-state agencies will be working alongside FEMA Individual Assistance Specialists at the DRCs.  “People can go in and say I lost my driver’s license, I need assistance, I need to sign up, or whatever,” Corbett says.  “Under federal regulation, an individual can get up to $30,200, because of this storm, if they have the damage.”  Documentation of that damage is critical.  “If people are listening to this, and they have damage, and they haven’t taken photographs, take the photographs,” Corbett recommends. 

Bloomsburg Flood - Tropical Storm Lee

The Susquehanna River overtook parts of Bloomsburg, Columbia County. Now, area residents can visit a Disaster Recovery Center at the Columbia County Agricultural Center on Sawmill Rd.

The governor says the federal government has been responsive in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee.  “I was in Shanksville with the President when he came in on Sunday,” Corbett explains, “We talked to him, I talked to his chief of staff, and was assured that we’d get the assistance as soon as everything was there, and we got the material to them very quickly.” 

Governor Corbett says PEMA and FEMA have been working together closely since Hurricane Irene hit before Labor Day.  It was the remnants President Barack Obama has issued two disaster declarations for this latest round of flooding.  One makes federal aid available to individuals, the other to local and state governments, as recovery efforts continue. 

Anyone planning on stopping by a Disaster Recovery Center should first register with FEMA, online.  The DRCs are open in Bloomsburg, DuShore, Harrisburg, Montoursville, Nanticoke, Towanda and Tunkhannock. Check the addresses below for the disaster center nearest you:

Wyoming County
Tunkannock Area School District Administration Office
41 Philadelphia Avenue
Tunkhannock, PA 18657
Bradford County
Towanda Fire Department
101 Elm St., Towanda PA 18848
Luzerne County Community College
1334 South Prospect Street
Nanticoke, PA 18634
Dauphin County
Harrisburg East Mall
3501 Paxton Street
Harrisburg, PA 17111
Lycoming County
740 Fairfield Road
Montoursville, PA 17754
Columbia County Agricultural Center
702 Sawmill Road
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
Sullivan County at Loyalsock State Forest District Office
6735 RT. 220
Dushore, PA 18626

President Declares Disaster for Pennsylvania

The damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee has now opened more than two dozen counties for federal assistance.    President Obama has issued a disaster declaration for 19 counties affected by the flooding.  11  counties were included an earlier disaster declaration for Hurricane Irene. Three counties were on both declarations. It means that individual assistance is available for residents and businesses in those counties if they qualify.

Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Bill Brubaker says businesses and individuals should document all damage and register to apply for assistance.  

The counties in the Tropical Storm Lee declaration are Adams, Bradford, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming, and York Counties.  The counties in the Irene declaration issued late last month were Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Sullivan, and Wyoming counties.  People and businesses must be located in one of those counties to apply.

The help can range from rental assistance for temporary housing, grants for home repairs or low interest loans to cover uninsured and under-insured losses.  There are programs for home owners, renters and businesses.

Brubaker says if you have any damage, you will need to apply, because there is a deadline.  He says some damage may not be immediately apparent.

Brubaker says home owners, renters and businesses will need to document everything, taking a lot of photographs.  The documentation should include whether or not you’ve filed an insurance claim for the damage.

To register by phone, call 1-800-621-FEMA.  You can also register on line.

The State Insurance Department is advising residents who suffered flood losses to document all of their damage, whether they’re eligible for the federal assistance or filing claims with flood insurance or home owners policies.  You should secure problems to prevent further damage, but don’t make permanent repairs until your insurance carrier says it’s OK.

To learn more about flood insurance go to New policies have a 30 day waiting period.  The insurance covers structures for up to $250,000 and contents for  up to $100,000.

Insurance Department spokeswoman Rosanne Placey says if you don’t have flood insurance, reach out to your homeowners insurance company to see if any of the damage is covered. Remember that if a vehicle was damaged, it will be covered under your auto insurance policy if you have comprehensive coverage.

For more tips from the insurance department, visit their web site.  If you have questions, you can call  their toll free line at  1-877-881-6388.