Bald Eagle

Flood leaves behind murky waters for residents moving forward

Friday morning’s flash-flooding filled the basement of the Barnhart’s house at 480 Market St., Milesburg, with about 3 feet of water.
Friday morning’s flash-flooding filled the basement of the Barnhart’s house at 480 Market St., Milesburg, with about 3 feet of water. Photo provided

Dana Barnhart’s father was asleep in the basement.

The older man was in Milesburg visiting for the night and this subterranean siesta on an air mattress was the closest that he was ever going to get to the honeymoon suite — he did not, however, request the 3 a.m. wake up call.

“I don’t mean to alarm you,” Barnhart told him, “but the basement is filling up with water.”

By the time that all was said and done, there would be 3 feet of the stuff covering the floor of his makeshift bedchamber, the byproduct of the same type of flash-flooding that Barnhart never thought was possible.

A few hours later, her daughter Annie would watch as neighbors paddled down the street in a canoe, belting out the chorus to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” for good measure.

Any possibility that this was all just a bad dream was quickly wilting in the face of the mounting pile of evidence quickly accumulating in the dumpster they rented later that day.

It’s lower-middle-class people who really struggle to get by month to month.

Dana Barnhart

Barnhart’s family tore out carpeting, dragged out the fridge and freezer and bid adieu to electronics that were never manufactured with an eye toward an aquatic society.

Their furnace is toast but they’ll be OK. Flood insurance will help them get back on their feet — but Barnhart is keenly aware that others are in much worse shape.

“It’s lower-middle-class people who really struggle to get by month to month,” Barnhart said.

On Sunday evening, Barnhart and other community members affected by Friday morning’s flood gathered at Bald Eagle Area High School to meet with Gov. Tom Wolf, who was touring the damage that had been done to Centre County.

Those present took turns presenting questions or concerns, many of them naturally circling back to the extensive damage that had been done to their homes and belongings.

Answers are still forthcoming.

Molly Pomeroy-Hoover and her family live in Julian — and they don’t have flood insurance.

What they did have was a flooded basement, a space that also doubles as the family’s living and playrooms.

Flooring, drywall, furniture — it all needs to be replaced.

There were other priorities to attend to first, though. Pomeroy–Hoover’s husband and son both suffer from severe asthma and allergies, neither compatible with a soggy house.

“You can’t live in chaos,” Pomeroy-Hoover said.

She called a restoration company and was given a $6,000 estimate for the six massive fans and three huge dehumidifiers that are in the process of wringing out her house like a wet cloth.

On Monday, Pomeroy-Hoover is going to the bank for a loan.

“We can’t do this every 10 years,” Pomeroy-Hoover said.

Lillian Richards Laird lives in Milesburg, not too far from the Barnharts — and boy, did she see some things on Friday.

Richards Laird watched as a car stalled out in the middle of a flooded road, the driver opting to abandon ship and test his luck on foot.

You can’t live in chaos.

Molly Pomeroy-Hoover

The neighbors who live across the street, both confined to motorized wheelchairs, tried desperately to unclog blocked sewer drains.

Perhaps the most stunning sight was her own basement, which had been overtaken by 6 feet of water. The house has flood insurance, but her shed is another story altogether.

Richards Laird’s lawnmower and snowblower are both ruined and the realities of how and when they will be replaced are not readily apparent.

But not everything was washed away in the flood.

There are still neighbors like the Barnharts, who have opened both their hearts and their dumpster to neighbors. The kids even supplied coffee and refreshments to help fuel the clean up efforts.

“Social media was good. So many people came and helped,” Barnhart said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready