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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Counting storm damages, hoping for help

  • Crumbled streets and ditches. Basements drying out where water reached the furnace and spoiled household goods. Businesses soaked. Hawley Borough is just one community in Wayne County wringing out the excess water from an intense rain storm, with more rain coming.
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  • Crumbled streets and ditches. Basements drying out where water reached the furnace and spoiled household goods. Businesses soaked. Hawley Borough is just one community in Wayne County wringing out the excess water from an intense rain storm, with more rain coming.
    On Tuesday July 1st, Senator Lisa Baker and the Wayne County Commissioners Brian Smith, Jonathan Fritz and Wendall Kay were shown around the community by Mayor Kevin Hawk.
    Just two days after the deluge, Borough officials were still compiling estimates of financial loss to Borough infrastructure, and gathering estimates from its citizens. The hope is that federal funding may be able to help the cash-strapped borough as well as its citizens.
    Both Hawley Borough and Palmyra Township- Wayne had issued declarations of State of Emergency due to damage from the storm on Sunday afternoon, June 30.
    The County as a whole has been declared by the Commissioners as an Emergency Disaster Area.
    Meeting thresholds
    Sunday's storm followed soaking rain that ravaged sections of northern Wayne County on Thursday. In Starrucca, a small borough in the far northern area, there was an initial report of a house that fell into the Shadigee Creek. Instead, the creek jumped the retaining wall and entered the house, Kay said. Some bridges were washed out up north, Commissioner Smith stated.
    Emergency declarations were issued up north by Scott, Manchester, Mount Pleasant, Clinton, Buckingham and Preston Townships as well as Starrucca Borough and Canaan Township.
    Whether citizens and local governments will be able to get federal assistance from the damages depends on if the totals add up to a certain threshold each county is given by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
    Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator for Wayne County, Peter Hooker, said that if the storms are taken together, from Thursday through the current time, they easily have enough for Wayne County's level. He said their view is that the storms are all part of the same weather pattern, and the hope is that Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) will agree.
    The threshold figure for Wayne County for 2013 is over $182,000 per storm.
    Some of the townships are reporting an excess of $300,000 in damages in each, Hooker said, so the total will be way over the county threshold.
    Uncertainty rises, however, because the state- PEMA- lacks the funds to distribute, Senator Baker reported. In order for Wayne County to get help, therefore, they need with other counties, to show the damages add up to the statewide threshold. That's a much heftier figure, over $16.5 million.
    Wayne County and other counties affected by this extended weather pattern, such as Lackawanna and Susquehanna Counties, could then apply for federal (FEMA) money.
    The President would need to declare a State of Emergency for Pennsylvania, so that money can trickle down and get the local roads fixed and help struggling homeowners wondering how they are going to pay for repairs to such things as foundations, furnaces and yards.
    Page 2 of 3 - Commissioner Wendell Kay suggested that when all the figures are in, just for Wayne County they could have as much as a million dollars in damages.
    In Hawley, Mayor Hawk reported there could be a little over $300,000 in street damage and perhaps $160,000 in residential damage. Firm figures are still being assessed.
    Senate Bill 720
    Senator Baker cautioned there might not be enough damage totals from all the storm events taken together to reach the federal threshold for Pennsylvania. Isolated, intense storms, however, have overwhelmed small communities such as Hawley, where the damages exceed the annual budget.
    She said that these concerns help build her case for a new state grant program.
    Baker said these concerns further confirm why Senate Bill 720, which she has authored, should be passed. S.B. 720 calls for state funds to assist individuals and political subdivisions directly affected by natural and man-made disasters. State assistance would be limited to grants for projects that do not qualify for Federal assistance to repair homes, personal property and public facilities.
    The grants would only apply when a Presidential disaster declaration is not covering the area.
    Funds for the proposed program would come through liquor tax revenues.
    Commissioner Smith told the Senator that the counties also need more flexibility in being able to prepare for floods, by getting in the stream beds with bulldozers. He said that the counties should have authority to enter stream beds, remove the sand bars and take out the debris from major storms of years ago that threaten to cause floods.
    Senator Baker added that assistance needs to be provided for watersheds, covering multiple municipalities, rather than just township by township.
    Local governments and citizens needed to apply by noon on Thursday, July 4, Hooker said, so that the Wayne County EMA may meet with PEMA the next day. Citizens needed to contact their borough or township office, or go straight to the 911 Center at 43 Volunteer Drive off Route 652- the road to Beach Lake.
    Hawley damages
    Both the hill sections of Chestnut Street and Prospect Street remain closed to traffic, where the torrent undermined the pavement. Other streets with significant damage include Wangum, Pine, Maple, Highlands and parts of Spruce.
    Borough workers had just filled in a sinkhole where Pine Street meets Wangum Avenue, on the way up to the Queen of Peace Cemetery.
    The tour took the Senator to the parking lot of Hawley Medical Center off Spruce Street, where a huge gully could be seen between houses. A large culvert pipe that extends beneath the parking lot has become obstructed, and water was still gushing down from higher ground. The raging water appears to be affecting one of the houses as it heads to the culvert under Route 6.
    Page 3 of 3 - At Prospect Street she saw the field stone wall where runoff poured over in several waterfalls, ripping up the street's asphalt as it tore down the hill.
    She had a chance to meet some of the residents who described their experience with the storm. She also spoke with a group of PennDOT workers were making storm repairs in the Borough.
    The Mayor said he was waking up every couple hours concerned about more rain falling and what more could happen.
    Mayor Hawk asked Hawley citizens to contact the Borough office at 226-9545 if anyone needs help to recover from the storm. Aside from the chance for federal assistance, he pointed to a generous community which is stepping up to help their neighbors. Hawley Rotary Club, for instance, and the 1st Presbyterian Church in Hawley, have offered to help with volunteer labor.
    The Wayne Pike Chapter of the American Red Cross is another source of community help. The Mayor said they have some household cleaning kits from the Red Cross available to assist people in cleanup.
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