Bald Eagle

Commissioners offer update on flood relief efforts

Tom Schivery, 72, looks out over the flood damage on his property during a cleanup of the lower Coleville Area on Tuesday.
Tom Schivery, 72, looks out over the flood damage on his property during a cleanup of the lower Coleville Area on Tuesday.

The Centre County Commissioners on Tuesday offered an update of the relief efforts in wake of the October flash-flooding in Milesburg and Howard.

Since the flood waters receded, Centre County Emergency Management Agency Director Jeff Wharran said the total number of households and businesses that reported damage has grown to 408. Many families have received help, but as the cold weather approaches a new set of concerns have arisen.

“Almost every basement in Milesburg was flooded,” Wharran said. “And most of the people have basements, that’s where their furnaces and heating oil is located. There are some lower-income families who don’t have the means to repair the furnace or replace it.”

Since October, Centre County Director of Adult Services Faith Ryan has managed money donated by county residents to help the food victims. More than $18,000 was received by Helping Other People Excel, Interfaith Human Services, the Howard Fire Company, Freedom Life Church and the Salvation Army. But that money has been depleted.

Representatives from the Small Business Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in the county this week conducting damage assessments, but according to Wharran the process is slow. He believes the county will receive the money, and when it does, his office will set up a disaster loan outreach center to process the claims.

The county is also awaiting federal money. The repairs being made to infrastructure such as roads and bridges is estimated at just more than $2 million. In order to qualify for money from FEMA, the county has to show more $18 million in damages.

However, the $18 million FEMA minimum is a statewide number that can be totaled from different counties affected by the same event. Centre County is combining the damage total with Lycoming and Sullivan County’s totals, which Wharran believes will bring the counties over the federal threshold.

As residents and the government await the completion of the assessments and the potential allocation of the money, the county is hoping to receive more donations.

“We continue to appeal to the citizens of Centre County to donate to the charities we partnered with for people’s immediate needs,” Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins said.

An update on the damage assessments and the potential fund allocations is expected in the coming weeks.

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi

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