Emergency Management Teams Assess Damage Severe Storms Left Behind

By Paterra, Paul | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Emergency Management Teams Assess Damage Severe Storms Left Behind


Paterra, Paul, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Patty Marquis summed up succinctly what she and neighbors in Jeannette hoped would result from Thursday's visit from state and federal emergency management agency officials.

"Help," said the resident of 516 Mill St., one of the areas hit hardest by the June 17 thunderstorms and subsequent flooding.

"Reality right now is hitting me," Marquis said. "We still don't have a hot water tank. ... All we have, literally, is our bed to sleep in. We can't even get a bath here."

Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency made a whirlwind tour of Westmoreland County yesterday. Their mission was a preliminary damage assessment of communities to determine whether the areas qualify for federal funding.

PEMA and FEMA officials, along with representatives of the Small Business Administration, the state Department of Environmental Protection and Westmoreland County Emergency Management were scheduled to tour Jeannette, Hempfield, Penn Borough, Penn Township, Export, Murrysville, North Huntingdon, Greensburg and Youngwood.

"We're trying to get them to all nine communities that have experienced damage," said Rich Matason, Westmoreland County public safety director. "The more damage we can show them that fits their criteria, the more confident we are we'll be able to get this."

It was FEMA's first visit to the county since 2004, when they witnessed the effects of Hurricane Ivan. Individual assessments were being made yesterday to determine whether the county qualifies for a federal declaration for emergency assistance, and homes were examined to see whether they qualify for Small Business Administration loan assistance.

"We need to look at the trauma, special populations, insurance coverage, severity of impact, types of damage, scale of damage," said Maria Finn, PEMA press secretary. "We have to determine with FEMA that we meet the eligibility criteria. The feds should be able to tell us by (today). We'll crunch the numbers and be able to determine if the governor can make the request of the president for the funding."

Matason said if funding is made available, it will be determined how that money will be dispersed.

"This is the first step in the process. Once we get the declaration, we'll find out what other details come along with it," he said, adding he was confident the presidential declaration would come.

Officials looked at several properties on Mill Street in Jeannette. …

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