Recovering from the flooding

Station Hill Road in Alford completely washed out in last week’s flash floods. Debris from the roadway swept down into the basement of the Calvary Baptist Church of Alford. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY STACI WILSON

In the week since flash floods heavily impacted the county, recovery efforts are underway.

Gov. Tom Wolf issued a disaster declaration which will enable potential federal funding to aid in recovery efforts.

Municipalities are in the process of reporting, or have reported, initial damage assessments from the storms.

A Disaster Recovery Center opened in the Susquehanna County Office Building this week – and will remain open through today, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Those affected by flood damage are asked to bring identification, photos of damage, and information from your insurance company regarding the property.

Agencies on hand in the Disaster Recovery Center to assist and types of help available include: DEP; well water test kits; emergency permits; Trehab Transportation, Food Banks and Workforce Assessment; Susquehanna County Housing Authority; Area Agency on Aging; PEMA; Dept. of Health; Dept. of Agriculture; Scranton Counseling Center; Red Cross; Susquehanna County Assistance Office; Veterans Affairs; and the Dept. of Human Services.

PennDOT, along with municipalities, have been working to repair critical road damage caused by the storms. Many of the roads flooded or undermined have been reopened to travel, as of press time, although several remain closed.

Stepping up to help

On Saturday, Aug. 25, the Harford Fair will donate $1 from all admissions into the fair to Susquehanna County Interfaith for flood relief efforts.

Natural gas companies operating in the area have also stepped up to help.

Cabot Oil & Gas spokesman George Stark said, “Cabot recognizes the impact of the recent flooding and will work responsively to help those affected. We are grateful for the efforts of local and state elected officials and the Harford Fair and Susquehanna Interfaith during this crucial time of need. By working cooperatively with local organizations, the natural gas industry sees the opportunity to come together when the community needs it most.”

Willams Companies, Southwestern (SWN) and DTE, along with Cabot, have each pledged to donate $5,000 to Interfaith’s flood relief efforts.

Williams, which owns and operates vital natural gas gathering and transmission infrastructure in the local area, is providing $50,000 in disaster relief grants across the 10-county region that was affected. In addition, many Williams employees have been volunteering in the community, supporting relief efforts through clean-up, food deliveries and working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Damages

Susquehanna County  Commissioner Alan Hall reported the county’s three dams are all in good condition following the last flood event; but the county’s 32 bridges did not fair as well.

After the initial assessment of the bridges, damage estimates total over $550,000. Hall said he expects that number to triple after the water goes down more and a more thorough inspection can be made.

Representatives from PEMA and DEP met with municipal leaders on Thursday afternoon in the Susquehanna County Courthouse.

Greg Doyle, with PEMA, outlined the information the agency was looking to collect from municipalities. He told the elected leaders and local emergency management coordinators to start first with damages; and to look at the things not insured.

For homeowner, he advised reporting the damage to their insurance company first, and to ask the agent to document it, even if the damages are not covered.

He also told townships and boroughs to keep track of what they fix and the money spent on repairs to damage caused by the storms.

A DEP representative said the agency would be in the area every day until repairs are done and asked municipalities with damage to pipes, culverts, etc. He said emergency permits are easy to get and are good for 60 days, and there are no fees for those permits.

The American Red Cross operated a shelter and feeding operation at the Montrose Area High School in the days following the flooding.

Stories from the flood

Bobby Earl and his wife, Danielle, weren’t at their Franklin Forks home when the water breached on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Earl said that at 6 a.m., the water was still three feet under the bridge on Route 29. By 7 a.m. that all changed in about 10 minutes.

“We’ve talked to the state and PennDOT over the past nine years to get the creek fixed,” Earl said on Wednesday, Aug. 15. He said he’s reported debris under the bridge, and it was still there three months after reporting it.

“We’ve gotten no help from the state or anyone else,” Earl said. His family’s home took on 2-1/2 feet of water on its main floor. “Our house is unlivable…unsafe. It’s destroyed. We don’t have anything.”

He said that after repeat flooding issues, they would likely just walk away from the property after nine years.

When they purchased the home, the bank told them the house was in a low-risk flood zone, he said. But with FEMA maps redrawn shortly after, it was then considered high risk.

The cost of flood insurance on the property has raised four times since then, he said. “It’s so high we can hardly afford the mortgage,” he said.

“The township can only do so much,” Earl said. “Franklin Twp. does a good job.”

Allen Coy, owner of Snake Creek Marine, said last week’s flooding was the highest he’s ever seen the water rise on the west side of Route 29 in Franklin Forks.

The bridge spanning Route 29, which was replaced following the 2006 flood, kept the water on that side of the road, Coy said.

He says the replacement bridge is too small to handle the water that come during the flash floods. The new bridge, he said, is nine feet shorter than the old one. “I measured the bridge beams when they came out,” he said.

Coy’s business has been flooded 11 times since 2006 – five of them major floods, he said. And he considered last week’s flash flooding two separate events – with the waters rising a second time Tuesday night into Wednesday.

The Snake Creek Marine buildings were “pretty much destroyed,” Coy said.

Several boats parked across the road from the shop were carried through a corn field and beyond.

“It’s not just me. At least three houses are totaled, the church is totaled,” Coy said. “There’s no coming back from this.

A young man working on clearing out debris and supplies in the business asked Coy where to put something.

“They’re all volunteers,” Coy said, motioning to the people working on clearing out the buildings. “They just show up.”

Volunteers also showed up at Calvary Baptist Church of Alford on Thursday morning to help clean-up efforts there.

The basement of the 1896 church was destroyed as mud, rocks and debris from Station Hill Road filled it. The road, past a small railroad bridge, was completely destroyed.

Lisa Tompkins said she had been a member of the church for almost 30 years and a Sunday School teacher.

The Sunday School, as well as the church kitchen, is located in its basement.

“We’re throwing away Sunday School stuff,” she said on Thursday afternoon. “A lot of memories.”

The church has flooded before, but last week’s flooding was 10 times worse, according to Tompkins. The kitchen was replaced in 2006. “Now we have to do it all again,” she said.

The church does not have flood insurance, Tompkins said. And even with the Alford Dam basically in its backyard, it is not deemed to be in the flood plain. She said she would like to see what steps the church could take to become insured.

“We will now be looking for donations,” she said, “and doing the work ourselves.”

 

 

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