Corbett Back In Flood Zone

Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

During Friday’s tour of Luzerne County areas recovering from flood damage cause by Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011, Gov. Tom Corbett often discussed Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to start impacting Pennsylvania by late Sunday night.

“We continue to work very closely with PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), working together on the recovery here, and right now, we’re moving forward getting ready for what appears to be another significant incident with the storm next week,” Corbett said in West Pittston. “We should be in for a fair amount of rain in the eastern part of the state. Western Pennsylvania may be the recipients of a fair amount of snow at the same time.”

Corbett declared a disaster emergency Friday evening to allow state and local agencies to use all available resources and personnel in emergency situations.

Luzerne County Councilman Stephen A. Urban, chairman of the county flood protection authority, and authority director Jim Brozena greeted Corbett by the Susquehanna River levee in Forty Fort.

“Hey Steve, nice to see you again,” Corbett said to Urban.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is repairing parts of the 15-mile levee system, which successfully protected more than 14,000 properties last year. The flood put intense pressure on the levees, and the stress caused some damage and forced emergency reinforcement measures to stop water from seeping underneath.

“The last time I was here, it was bubbling up right there,” Corbett said pointing to an area by the Forty Fort Cemetery.

The river crested in Wilkes-Barre at a record 42.66 feet on Sept. 9, 2011. The “worst-case scenario” projected for next week is the river rising to 30 feet, which would not result in home flooding in unprotected river communities in the county, Brozena said.

“You don’t really know about these things,” Corbett said, recalling the 1972 flood caused by heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Agnes.

After the levee tour in Forty Fort, Corbett went to West Pittston, which is not protected by the levee system. More than 900 homes in the borough experienced flood damage last year. Corbett chatted with Dorothy Lagure, who said her home on Montgomery Avenue had more than 4 feet of river water on the first floor.

“This one was the worst,” she said, telling the governor her borough home has been flooded six times since 1966.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a $1 million contract in September with Philadelphia area-based Tristate-Design Inc. to fix sand boils by levees and concrete cracks in flood walls, Brozena said. The federal government is providing all funding for the repairs. Tristate is close to starting the repair work and could be done by the end of the year, depending on the weather, Brozena added.

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