Mon Valley hopes for disaster funds
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Saturday, July 27, 2013, 1:46 a.m.
The Mon Valley is hoping to eventually receive relief through disaster funds for areas affected by flooding since June 26.
Gov. Tom Corbett asked President Obama to declare a disaster exists in Allegheny, Washington, Fayette and 11 other counties.
In Allegheny and Washington counties, the request includes damage on July 10 and 17 and earlier this week.
“It was evident early on that the damage is significant and our communities will require federal assistance to recover,” Corbett said on Friday.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesman Cory Angell said damage topped $19.8 million, well over a $17.4 million threshold normally needed for federal relief.
More than $4 million in damage was reported in Allegheny County alone.
“We are grateful that the governor has taken this step,” county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “We are hopeful that the federal government will assist with funding that will allow Allegheny County residents and businesses to recover from the damages sustained from the recent storms.”
Fitzgerald pledged a continued effort to work with state and federal officials to “identify resources available to the people and organizations most impacted, and work with them to make necessary repairs.”
Corbett said high winds, severe storms, heavy rain, tornadoes and flooding burdened local governments.
“What we are looking at is infrastructure damage,” Angell said, citing a need to fix roads and bridges.
“Hopefully this will help us to repay some of the money we have already spent and remediate the problem we have on Irwin Street,” said Elizabeth council president Monica Glowinski. On July 10 overflows of Fallen Timber Run and a feeder stream tore apart a section of Irwin Street and damaged several homes.
On Tuesday Elizabeth council approved invoices totaling $13,000 to vendors dealing with flood-related problems. Glowinski said that did not include overtime paid to police and public works employees.
Elizabeth, Jefferson Hills, Lincoln and West Elizabeth are among a dozen Allegheny County municipalities that declared a state of emergency after the flooding on July 10.
“We're hopeful that they will consider what happened on July 10 and the impact that it had on our community,” Jefferson Hills assistant secretary Andrew McCreery said. “There was a couple hundred thousand dollars damage just to borough-owned property.”
If approved, state and local governments and certain nonprofit organizations would qualify for the federal Public Assistance program.
It would pay 75 percent of the approved cost of debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, buildings and utilities.
“The only way we are going to resolve some of these issues is to get more money into the county and some of these communities,” said Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin. “Anything we can get from the state and the federal governments would be helpful.”
Macey said recent floods exacerbated existing problems, involving infrastructure that hadn't been maintained and tree and grass clippings winding up in sewers and creeks.
“This has happened on more than one occasion that we found people's trimmings clogging up the pipes,” said Macey, who chairs council's public works committee.
Last week Macey joined local, county, state and federal officials on a tour of flood damage that included Elizabeth and Forward townships.
The governor's request was made through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region III office in Philadelphia. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, asked FEMA administrator Craig Fugate for a swift review of the July 10 storms.
“Thanks to the swift response of local policemen, volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, no lives were lost during this catastrophe,” Murphy wrote. “In the immediate aftermath, hundreds of volunteers came together to help the affected towns and families clean up quickly, but significant work remains.”
PEMA's spokesman said there was no timetable for a reply from FEMA.
“There is great latitude for the federal government,” Angell said. “They can look at the situation, look at the numbers and see if it is a proper thing to do.”
He also said it was not too late to add to the numbers.
“Anybody who does suffer any damage should report it to their local municipality,” Angell said. “That will get us accurate numbers as we continue here.”
Other counties in the governor's request are Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Huntingdon, Jefferson, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Schuylkill, Venango and Wayne.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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