Disaster Unemployment Assistance Offered in Pennsylvania Counties Covered By Disaster Declarations

An additional form of assistance is available in the 27 counties covered by the federal disaster declarations for Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.  People who are unable to work because of damage caused by the severe storms and flooding may be eligible for federal disaster unemployment assistance if they live in one of those counties.

Patrick Beatty, Deputy Secretary for Unemployment Compensation at the Department of Labor and Industry, says the deadline to apply is October 14th.  He says DUA is completely funded by the federal government and applies to those who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the storm and would not be covered under the state’s unemployment compensation law.

Beatty says it’s also available for people who have suffered an illness or injury as a direct result of the disaster and cannot work. He says the program also applies to those who are self-employed.

People can file by calling 1-877-FILE-DUA or by going to one of the Disaster Recovery Centers being established in Bradford, Columbia, Dauphin, Lycoming, Luzerne, Sullivan or Wyoming Counties.   

People who are out of work because of the storm, but are covered by the state’s unemployment compensation law, should apply for regular benefits.

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.


Some Restaurants and Food Facilities Need Inspections to Reopen After Flooding

Restaurants and food facilities that are normally inspected by the state will need to be checked by the Bureau of Food Safety before they can reopen from flood damage.  The State Agriculture Department has brought in food sanitarians from areas not hit hard by the flooding to inspect restaurants and food facilities that were damaged.

Spokeswoman Samantha Elliot Krepps says the establishments can only be inspected after flood waters recede and the facilities are thoroughly cleaned. Food affected by flooding will have to be thrown out.  Some canned goods may be salvageable, but they must be thoroughly cleaned with a mixture of bleach and water, and relabeled. She says it’s a very tedious process.

Krepps says food sanitarians started checking some establishments over the weekend.  Some were not damaged, but were affected by boil water orders. They needed to disconnect ice machines and use alternative water sources to remain open.  Employees need to wash their hands with water that has been boiled.   Other restaurants had water damage and there were some that were destroyed.

Krepps says they want to give the restaurant owners ample time to clean up and get their facilities reopened.  She says the department’s main responsibility is to protect the public’s health and help the restaurant and food facility owners get back on their feet so they can operate.

Pennsylvania Health Department Warns of Potential Mold Growth in Flooded Properties

State Health officials are reminding people who’ve suffered flood damage to get their homes and businesses dried out as quickly as possible.   Damp conditions can be a breeding ground for mold, and it can grow it as little as two days after flooding occurs. 

Spokeswoman Christine Cronkright says porous materials can trap mold, so you should dispose of damaged items such as paper, ceiling tiles, wallboard, sheetrock, and carpeting.

You should clean and disinfect damp areas and keep them well ventilated, allowing them to dry naturally to kill all molds.   Cronkright says make sure you protect yourself while cleaning moldy areas. This means wearing gloves, such as rubber dishwashing gloves and using a mask or respirator to minimize exposure.

Use non-ammonia soap or detergent or a commercial cleaner in hot water to clean flood-damaged areas.  Disinfect with a solution of no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water.  Never mix bleach with ammonia, because the fumes are toxic.

Cronkright says sheetrock should be removed to at least 12” above the high water mark.  You should allow the area to dry for at least 2 to 3 days before replacing any damaged materials. Make sure you check all areas that may have become wet, including ceiling tiles and wallboard.

Don’t forget to document all of your flood damage before cleaning, taking photos of the damaged areas of your property.

Mold spores in large numbers can cause allergic reactions, asthma episodes, infections and other respiratory problems. People who are at higher risk from the effects of mold include infants and children, senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and people with existing respiratory conditions.

For more information, resources and tips for clean up after floods, visit the department’s website and click on “PA Post-Flooding Information and Resources”.

Flooding Continues but Susquehanna River Receding

Goldsboro railroad underpass on 9/9.

Goldsboro railroad underpass on 9/9.

Flooding continued along the Susquehanna River, but  the water levels were dropping . The river reached  record levels at Wilkes Barre and other points north. The levels at Harrisburg and Marietta were the highest since Agnes hit in 1972.

The river reached its high points at Harrisburg and Marietta on Friday.   It reached 25.17 at Harrisburg Friday morning and should drop below flood stage later on Sunday. The river reached 58.16 feet at Marietta Friday morning and should drop below flood stage by Monday morning.   The flooding displaced thousands of people and caused devastating damage to homes and businesses along the river.

Flooded backyard near Goldsboro railroad underpass.

Flooded back yard in Goldsboro near railroad underpass.

Ben Pratt, Hydraulic Engineer with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, says the risk of flash flooding could rise again along streams and creeks if any thunderstorms hit affected areas in the next few days. He says that’s because those tributaries are still swollen with the rain that fell from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.

Pratt says the Susquehanna should eventually get back to normal levels with little damage to the river. But in the short term, the quality of the water will continue to be affected as the flood flow works its way through the system.

Unofficial rainfall amounts posted by the National Weather Service for September 4-8 range from 3.28 inches in Renovo, Clinton County to 15.2 inches in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County. Dauphin County was also hit hard with totals ranging from 12 to nearly 14 inches and 14.7 inches was reported in Pine Grove, Schuylkill County.

a rooster and three hens

Chickens stroll down Goldsboro sidewalk after flood waters swamped their coop.

Many towns had to deal with small stream and creek flooding followed by river flooding. In Goldsboro, York County, more than two dozen homes along the river were flooded. The swollen Susquehanna forced Fishing Creek to back up, closing two of the main roads into the river town. The water also nearly filled a railroad underpass, blocking access to several homes and campsites along the river.

People with summer homes on the islands nearby will have to wait until the river begins to go down and debris flow eases, before they can safely access their properties by boat. One man watched along the river Friday morning. He said he had gone to his property on Shelley Island earlier in the week and moved valuables above the 2004 Hurricane Ivan flood level, but after returning, the forecast added another 5 feet to the crest. He was relieved when the forecast was revised down to 25.2 feet at Harrisburg, just a little less than a foot higher than Ivan.

Humans weren’t the only ones affected in Goldsboro. As the water inundated back yards, a rooster and three hens took to the sidewalk when their coop was flooded.

Not Out of the Woods Yet…

It came close, but the Susquehanna River never quite reached the top of the 41-foot levies that protect the city of Wilkes-Barre.  “The levee system worked pretty well.  There are still some questions about it over time,” says Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), who toured the damage this morning with Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).  “The smaller communities that didn’t have that kind of protection – West Pittston comes to mind – they have very high water, sometimes as high as the second floor.” 

Stress on the levee system is a top concern for Luzerne County Commission chair Maryanne Petrilla, but there are others.  For instance: boils.  “The ground is so saturated that the river water is going under the levee and coming up in… we call it a boil, if you can imagine water boiling outside the ground.”  Local officials are combating the boils with truckloads of stone. 

For now, some 65-thousand Wilkes-Barre area residents remain under evacuation orders.  “We realize they want to come back home, but they just can’t, it’s not safe yet,” Petrilla stresses.  Also, it’s too early to talk damage assessments.  Petrilla says that will have to wait until next week. 

 Downriver in Dauphin County, the commissioners are already turning their attention to the recovery phase of emergency operations.  “We have teams that are going to be going out looking at infrastructure.  Starting Monday morning, the county’s engineering team will be looking at all of the bridges to make sure they are okay.  We’ve been working with PennDOT for an assessment on our local roads,” Dauphin County Commission chair Jeff Haste said at a Friday afternoon briefing. 

Haste says the recovery effort is going to be long, tedious and costly.  He also urged residents to use caution as they come back to assess the damage.  “Make sure the water has receded.  The water that is out there is toxic water.  Even when the water has gone down, there’s still going to be petroleum in there, there’s still going to be solid waste laying around.”  Two wastewater treatment plants disappeared in the floodwaters this week.     


A look at the flooding situation in Harrisburg, Dauphin County.


Remnants of Lee Cause Flooding in Pennsylvania, Rivers Could Hit Major Flood Levels

It has been a day of flash flooding, periods of drenching rain and water rescues for parts of the state, with some of the worst problems on either side of the Susquehanna.   The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee have been pushing streams and creeks over their banks and overloading drainage systems.  By mid-morning, some areas near Harrisburg had gotten almost 6 inches of rain, with 7 reported in Bethlehem and near Dover in York County.

Peter Young, warning coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in State College, says because the rain is associated with a tropical system, it has been coming in bands.  This means some areas are getting hit harder than others. Flood watches and warnings were issued for much of Central and Eastern Pennsylvania.

There is a risk of major flooding along the Susquehanna River if the forecast holds.  Ben Pratt, a Hydraulic engineer with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, says the river should crest at Harrisburg by Friday evening.

Major flooding is also possible in Marietta to the south and Wilkes Barre to the north. Pratt says people who have interests or live along the river need to pay close attention to the forecast.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency has raised its readiness to level 2 at the Emergency Operation Center.  Officials have  brought in emergency preparedness liaison officers from key agencies such as the National Guard, State Police and PennDOT as they plan for the possibility of major flooding on the Susquehanna, Delaware and Juniata Rivers.