Gov. Tom Corbett announced assistance efforts are underway in DuBois and parts of Jefferson County after flash flooding struck the area Thursday.
Corbett, at a 4 p.m. press conference yesterday at DuBois City Council chambers, said he’s “very concerned” about the widespread devastation. The governor left budget talks in Harrisburg Friday morning to board a Blackhawk helicopter and fly to DuBois to survey the damage.
“I think we should thank all of the first responders,” said Corbett. “Everyone’s in their basements cleaning them out, but those first responders have been out there now more than 24 hours. As much as we can, we give them a pat on the back for doing what they’re doing. I know it’s an all volunteer force, and I’m just amazed at what they’re able to do.”
“As you know the storm really beat us up last night,” said Pennsylvania Emergency Management Director Glen Cannon. “Most of our state’s first responders were out, and it’s a real credit to our first responders that we’ve only had one fatality (in Clinton County).
“There were numerous rescues of folks off the tops of cars and rescues of folks who were on stream banks that became raging rivers. Our swift water rescue teams did an outstanding job.”
Today, PEMA began reviewing the flood damage, Cannon said. Crews from PEMA’s Indiana office were on the scene throughout the night Thursday and all day Friday.
“The process starts by looking at damage and seeing what the level of that damage is,” said Cannon. “We’re adding it together to see if we hit certain benchmarks that are required to get assistance from the federal government or other federal agencies such as the small business administration, which makes very low interest loans available to people of 1 percent or less.
“Additionally,” he said, “I’ll be talking after this trip with our secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development because there are some funds we have there for recovery. Even if the feds and the state do not declare disaster because we don’t hit those thresholds does not mean there aren’t some programs that we can use.”
Damage should be reported to Clearfield County Emergency Management Agency, Cannon said. Damage reports are critical in determining what reimbursement or aid is available from the state or federal level. It’s important for flood victims to document their losses and to keep a record of them, he said.
Clearfield County Emergency Management Director Joe Bigar said United Methodist Commit-tee on Relief sanitary clean up kits would be made available at the First United Methodist Church located at 100 W. Long Ave. Those in need of sanitary cleaning supplies should call the church at 371-5150 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or the Rev. Lance Tucker at 335-3230 after 5 p.m.
“I’m concerned about additional flooding because storms continue and the ground is saturated,” said Corbett. “I saw flooded basements, debris on the roadways, and we drove by the Giant Eagle and saw it being emptied out and items being put into dumpsters.”
“The ground is saturated, the streams are at a very high level, and there’s still a possibility of flash flooding,” said Cannon. “With the ground being saturated, it will come faster.
Residents are asked not to drive into floodwater. Driving into water puts yourself and first responders at risk, Cannon said. Those who attempt to drive into water will be cited and fined under Pennsylvania law.
DuBois City Manager John “Herm” Suplizio cautioned residents should not walk through standing water. The water is contaminated with raw sewage and debris and there are blown manholes, he said.
“This is new for us, said state Sen. Joseph B. Scarnati, R-25 of Brockway. “We’ve had flooding before, but not of this quick magnitude and not for decades. It’s concerning, because the City of DuBois is really the epicenter for retail and business for this entire area.”
Scarnati and state Rep. Sam Smith, R-66 of Punxsutawney thanked Corbett for turning his attention to DuBois without hesitation.
“I commend the governor for making this a priority for the people of this area,” said Smith. “Certainly the communities down the way in Sykesville, Big Run and Punxsutawney have similar problems that they’re facing.
“We want everyone in the region to recognize that we’re concerned and willing and ready to do whatever it is that we can possibly do,” he said.