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Dunbar continues clean-up efforts after flood

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 6:27 p.m.
Celeste Van Kirk | Trib Total Media
Employees of Hennessey of Dunbar put limestone along Dunbar Creek on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2014.
Celeste Van Kirk | Trib Total Media
Frank Ross of Dunbar helps clean up a family member's home on Railroad Street. The home sustained damage during the flooding in Dunbar on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
Celeste Van Kirk | Trib Total Media
Sonya Copeland stands next to a chair the was destroyed in the flooding in Dunbar on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. The chair belongs to her son Nathan Copeland, who is quadriplegic. The chair was used to transport Nathan. It cost $800.
Celeste Van Kirk | Trib Total Media
A sign on Railroad Street in Dunbar thanks everyone who has helped residents and businesses affected by the flood on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.
Celeste Van Kirk | Trib Total Media
Sonya Copeland cleans out the basement at her home on Church Street in Dunbar on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

Volunteers from Dunbar and surrounding communities are helping the residents of the small Fayette County town clean up after it suffered flooding for the second time in a little more than 13 months on Saturday when the Dunbar Creek overflowed its banks.

According to Dunbar Borough Secretary Tammy Nedrow, who along with other volunteers has been helping in the clean-up effort all week, the flooding affected many homes.

Nedrow said a number of organizations, including the American Red Cross, and even Columbia Gas have been helping residents replace lost appliances, water heaters and furnaces in the 35 to 40 homes and businesses affected by the flooding.

One of those homes is that of Jenny Kenney, 21, and her son, John Rae Kenney, 20 months old, who share a home with Kenney's parents, Robin and John Beal.

“We just got a new washer and dryer. They were 13 months old,” she said. “I'm devastated.”

Kenny said not only did flood victims have to deal with damage from the waters, there were problems on the night after the flooding. Kenney said there were people riding around, rummaging through items the flood victims had brought out of their basements to dry out and salvage.

Nedrow confirmed there were some problems on that first night, but that has ended.

Now, residents and volunteers have been working to get the water and mud out of their homes and businesses and eliminate the growth of mold.

Nedrow said the turnout of volunteers “has been phenomenal” with retail stores, restaurants and other businesses offering help and people volunteering their physical labor.

“And neighbors have been helping each other,” she added.

She was sitting in the borough police station on Wednesday, where tables have been set up to provide food for borough residents who have had no chance to cook for themselves and for volunteers.

CSX Railroad has helped by cleaning up along the railroad tracks and replacing the washed out areas along Dunbar Creek.

Nedrow said she was afraid to provide a list of those who have donated for fear she might leave someone out. But she listed church groups, such as the Connellsville Area Community Ministries and even the Dunbar Borough PTO organization, which purchased tools that were loaned out to those who needed them. Neighboring communities, including Connellsville, have reached out to the Borough of Dunbar.

Chip Rowan of Connellsville Area Community Ministries said his assistant, Shelly Auer, had gone to Dunbar with Clorox and other cleaning supplies to help.

Nedrow said more help from a church group from out of town was expected over the weekend to help older residents clean up.

The American Red Cross has been in Dunbar lending a hand as well. Betsy Myers, a disaster program specialist with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross and Deb Moore, the lead volunteer for Fayette County of the American Red Cross, were manning a table and taking information from the residents who suffered damage.

Nedrow praised local legislators, who have called to see what help they might be able to provide.

One family with a special need was Francis Fissella and Sonya Copeland and Copeland's son, Nathan. The family lives at the bottom of Church Street. The area flooded quickly, Sonya Copeland said. She said first she was told by firemen Saturday morning they could stay in the house as water initially started receding. Then, water started to come back up, and the family was removed from their home.

Nathan is a quadriplegic. The firemen were able to get him out of the house. However, his special needs chair, with electronic components, that fits into the family van, was rendered unusable. Sonya Copeland said the chair will cost $800 to replace and was not covered by the car insurance because the family van was in the repair shop and was not affected by the flooding.

Sonya Copeland said they have received an application for a disaster loan with a 1-percent interest rate.

She said following last year's floooding, she took out a $10,000 loan for damage from the 2013 flooding.

“I can't afford to take out another loan,” she said.

The family was one of two or three that was offered the chance to move to a motel during the cleanup. But Sonya Copeland said she declined. She and Fissella continue to work on cleaning up the basement at their home.

Fissella has been a volunteer fireman for years and is also an officer with the Fayette County Fireman's Association. For the second time in 13 months, he has now found himself and his family on the receiving end, rather than providing help to others.

Many residents praised Dunbar officials, including Mayor Norm Gordon, who was going around on Monday evening with cleaning supplies and pizza for those in need.

Larry Bartholow, who is originally from Dunbar but now lives in Connellsville, was getting ready to go back to the Dunbar Presbyterian Church to use a pressure washer to clean out the basement.

Kevin Brown, of the regional Red Cross office, said two organizations, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Rendu Services, were coordinating efforts with the ARC for 25 home owners who suffered damage.

UMCOR was providing a cleanup service with a contractor who will clean out flooded areas and remove dry wall above the point where flood waters had reached.

Rendu was providing fans and dehumidifiers for those who need them.

Anyone wishing to drop off supplies can leave them at the police garage in Dunbar. Information on where to help can be found by calling Nedrow at the borough office at 724-277-4949.

Wednesday, meteorologist Brad Rehak at the National Weather Service in Moon, said there were several heavy showers building up to the west of Dunbar that were expected to pass through. But Rehak said the weather is expected to be dry for the next several days.

Nedrow said the showers were actually welcome because they helped hold the dust down.

“They (the showers) make our hearts beat a little faster,” said Gordon. “But Dunbar Creek is holding its own.”

Gordon said he felt the cause of the flood was the amount of rain that fell in the mountains upstream, coupled with the fact the ground was already saturated.

“I've been overwhelmed with the love and concern from our community and from neighboring communities,” said Gordon. “It has totally restored my faith in humanity.”

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3538.

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