Federal, Pennsylvania officials continue to assess June-July storm damage

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The smell of dirt lingered in the air Thursday as Allegheny County officials traveled to various locations in Forward and Elizabeth townships to assess major storm damage sustained last week.

With the assistance of state and federal agencies, Allegheny County Emergency Services saw trees uprooted, creeks blocked, asphalt driveways demolished and widespread flooding through the region. It is too soon to tell how much money will be needed for repairs.

The officials were evaluating damage caused July 10 by up to 3 inches of rainfall. The combination of steep embankments and a lot of rain in a short amount of time amounted to substantial damage.

The assessments will then be sent to the state and federal governments. Officials will decide if the area should receive funding or low-interest loans for the storm damage, said Alvin Henderson, chief of emergency services for Allegheny County.

One of the team's first stops was a home at the bottom of a steep hill in Forward.

Sandra Fine, 72, who lives on Pangburn Hollow Road, said she was very concerned about her home after the July 10 storm because the rain flooded her basement and reached the top of her porch steps.

"I looked outside my window and saw my lawn looked like a lake," she said.

The longtime resident said this storm was nothing compared to the one a few years ago. After that storm, there was so much flooding in her basement that her refrigerator floated. Still, she refuses to move from her home because she has lived there for 43 years.

County Councilman Bob Macey said his biggest concern is the health of his constituents. Their well-being could be at risk if people try to take care of damage, such as fallen trees or jammed sewers, by themselves.

Over the past few weeks, Mr. Macey said he has received a lot of calls from residents wondering who is responsible for damage and how they can make repairs. A common problem is flooded basements.

"Most of our damage came from the July 10 storm, but the last two storms exacerbated the situation," Mr. Macey said, adding that Saturday's expected storm would only make things worse.

The evaluations of regions in the county are ongoing. Chief Henderson said residents can continue to call in complaints for evaluation over the next few weeks.

The areas most impacted by the storms over the past month, such as Bridgeville, Mount Oliver, Oakdale, Scott, South Park and Upper St. Clair, were assessed Thursday.

Gov. Tom Corbett's office announced Wednesday that residents in Clearfield, Fayette and Jefferson counties, and those in the 14 surrounding counties, can apply for low-interest disaster loans.

"The effects of the rainfall since June 27 have had impacts across Pennsylvania, but the western part of the state has been hit the hardest," Mr. Corbett said. "We are grateful that the Small Business Administration granted our request for assistance for those affected by the flooding."

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Jessica Tully: jtully@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1159 or on Twitter @jessalynn4.


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