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Somerset County nets $118,000 in disaster relief money to deal with Superstorm Sandy's impact

| Monday, April 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Damaged power lines, downed trees and snow removal resulting from October's Superstorm Sandy has netted Somerset County more than $118,000 in disaster relief money.

The majority of the aid so far, about $68,700, has been earmarked for the Somerset Rural Electric Cooperative. The cooperative provides power to more than 13,000 homes and businesses in rural areas of Somerset, Bedford, Fayette and Westmoreland counties, and Garrett, Md.

Damage to electric poles and lines qualified Somerset County for disaster relief, said Richard Lohr, director of the Somerset County Emergency Management Agency.

Officials from the cooperative did not return calls seeking comment.

In addition, at least eight of 50 Somerset County municipalities qualified for disaster relief funds for overtime costs to clear snow and remove trees during the first few days of the storm, Lohr said.

State records show Southampton Township was allocated about $10,400; Lower Turkeyfoot Township, $9,800, and Berlin Borough, $8,700.

Somerset and 17 other counties, mostly in central and eastern Pennsylvania, qualified for relief funding because state disaster costs reached the $17.4 million threshold established by the federal government and the individual counties reached their own cost thresholds, said Ruth Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

To date, more than $3.8 million has been earmarked for Pennsylvania agencies and municipalities, but estimated costs and damages from the storm that started as a hurricane and later merged with another storm system total more than $20 million, Miller said.

Gov. Tom Corbett wrote to the White House in November asking for federal assistance, citing more than 400 roads closed from flooding or downed trees, 1.26 million homes and businesses without power, and citizens forced into shelters after being displaced by fires.

Under the aid program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency pays 75 percent and Pennsylvania pays 25 percent of relief awarded. Funds are distributed by the state as municipalities and other entities submit detailed paperwork documenting exact costs associated with storm preparation, damage and clean up, Miller said.

State agencies have been approved for more than $1.3 million so far, including about $942,000 for PennDOT, PEMA records show. Montgomery and Northampton counties will received the most funding with totals of $415,500 and $236,000, respectively, records show.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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