State declares disaster status for 14 counties

LOCK HAVEN – The Clinton County commissioners received word Thursday that Gov. Tom Corbett has declared a disaster emergency for Clinton and 13 other counties.

The proclamation came 29 days after the actual flooding.

On June 26, high winds, severe thunderstorms, heavy rains, tornadoes and widespread flooding hammered parts of the state and caused extensive damage in the Beech Creek area of Clinton County.

The declaration qualifies the state’s Emergency Management Agency for $200,000 to be used for its own disaster-related expenses and offers counties, local governments and individuals the possibility of assistance from state agencies and, depending on some factors, the potential for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration to make emergency repairs to businesses, homes and municipal infrastructure.

There are three levels of disaster designation.

A governor’s proclamation allows state agencies wide latitude to provide assistance and relaxes contracting requirements; a Small Business Administration disaster declaration provides limited loan assistance to individuals and businesses following smaller events; and, a Presidential Declaration of Major Disaster or Disaster Emergency that involves a response from both state and federal resources.

According to legislative aide Mitzi Gallagher, who attended the county government meeting, the state and federal agencies still are gathering numbers and assessing damages, with the “magic number” being $17.2 million in damages for a federal disaster declaration.

The other counties included in the proclamation include Allegheny, Centre, Clearfield, Crawford, Fayette, Huntingdon, Jefferson, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Schuylkill, Venango, Washington and Wayne.

The governor’s declaration followed an unusual series of weather events that sparked two severe storms within a week’s time, causing widespread flooding and property damage to some sections of central Pennsylvania. Beech Creek Borough and Beech Creek and Bald Eagle townships in Clinton County and Liberty Township in Centre County were particularly hard hit.

Beech Creek was inundated, suffering an estimated $2.1 million in damages to roads, bridges and municipal infrastructure. Two homes were destroyed, 11 homes sustained major damage and 25 houses suffered some minor to moderate damage but were considered habitable, according to statistics gathered by local emergency officials.

SBA officials, along with local and state officials, already have conducted damage assessments in the counties, including visits to areas of Centre and Clinton.

For an SBA designation, the problem apparently must include least 25 homes and/or businesses with uninsured losses of 40 percent or more of their estimated fair market value, according to the PEMA website. The SBA would provide low-interest loans of up to $200,000 to eligible homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate.

SBA regulations permit loans up to $40,000 for homeowners and renters to repair or replace personal property. Businesses can borrow up to $2 million.

More information on disaster assistance in Pennsylvania is available at by clicking on “Disaster Assistance” in the left-hand column.