State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Sizing up the response to Irene and Lee

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 6, 2012 3:50 AM

To hear PEMA tell it, the state’s on-point response to last year’s storms wasn’t due to a wealth of resources.  Rather, it was the smart use of limited resources.

When it became clear the eastern part of the state would be hardest hit, PEMA sent its western flood response teams packing.  “Our folks at the state emergency operations center began planning and moving swift water assets from Pittsburgh, Erie, and Warren, Pennsylvania,” said agency spokesman Cory Angell.

Angell said agreements with bordering states also allowed Pennsylvania to help – and be helped – as last year’s storms moved up the coast.   

New Jersey was hit right before the commonwealth, so PEMA sent a task force of ambulances to the Garden State to assist people in nursing homes and other special populations move out of harm’s way.  “When they finished that mission, they turned right around, they came back here to Harrisburg… and then they were used subsequently here in Pennsylvania to help with our citizens,” he said. 

In the event the next storm doesn’t free up a whole region of first response teams, Angell said the state may have to call upon its neighbors for help again.

Angell said during the recovery stage, more than 20 disaster recovery centers were staffed by multiple state agencies, including PEMA as well as the Department of Environmental Protection.  The centers were set up to help people apply for recovery aid and get things like water testing kits.

Two disaster declarations paved the way for federally funded assistance to be provided for Pennsylvanians affected by the storm – more than $40 million for those who applied due to Hurricane Irene, and $102.8 million for applicants who suffered damage due to Tropical Storm Lee.

Another $1.7 million has gone toward repairing public infrastructure – roads, bridges, buildings – damaged by Irene and Lee.  “Currently our numbers reflect that there are 40 public assistance projects,” said Angell. 

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