Current Flood Resources for Victims and Donors

While the clean up from the 2011 Flood continues in Bloomsburg, it is helpful to once again alert everyone to the various needs and resources in town.  The Bloomsburg Chapter of the American Red Cross has provided the following information.  If you have additional items that would be helpful to include (or changes to the information), please email or comment below.

Give Blood
For information on the nearest donation time and place or to schedule a donation, please call 1‐800‐RED‐CROSS or 1‐800‐432‐8045.

Office on Aging Help
People over 60 may call 1-570-784‐9272 for flood‐related help.  In addition, there is an office representative at the FEMA Center on 702 Sawmill Road.

Financial Help with Flood­-Related Expenses
Please report your damage to home or business to both the following numbers or offices:

Columbia County Emergency Center at 1-570­-389­-5606 or 1-570-389-­5665
FEMA National at 1-­800­-621­-3362, or in person at 702 Sawmill Rd.

FEMA Center
The center is located at 702 Sawmill Road. Go there to apply for financial help. The office is open from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. It might be helpful to call the FEMA number or visit their website first (below). The kind of help likely to be provided by FEMA includes 1) rental money for homeowners and renters, 2) grants to get working basic house systems (heating, refrig, sewage, water systems); and 3) low‐interest loans for home repair and personal property. For details on this and other kinds of help, see the FEMA and PEMA links on the following websites:

www.agapelovefromabove.org
fema.gov
www.pema.state.pa.us

Flood-Related Unemployment Assistance
Applicants may file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance by calling toll free at 877-FILE DUA (877-345-3382), from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.  Individuals using a text telephone (TTY) may call toll free at 888-334-4046.   Click here for more information.

Small Business Association Loans
See the SBA representative at the FEMA Center, 702 Sawmill Road.

Utility Bills Assistance
The Salvation Army may provide help.  Please call 1-570-387‐4112 or try Human Services at 1-570-387‐6501.

Housing
To find replacement housing to purchase or rent for flood victims, call 1‐ 877‐428‐8844 or on the web go to www.PAHousingSearch.comFirst Columbia Bank is providing low‐interest loans.

Heating or Fuel Leaks
Please call the Department  of Environmental Protection at 1-570-327‐3636.

Electrical Damage
For reports of electrical damage, please call PP&L at 1‐800‐342‐5775.

Free Carpeting
Bloomsburg Carpet Industries may be providing carpet to those in need.

Legal Resources
Please call 1‐877‐861‐8589.

Well ­Testing Kits
Available from FEMA at 702 Sawmill Road.

Pastoral Counseling
Counseling is available from the following pastors regardless of affiliation:

  • Maggie Gillespie, Campus Ministry, 1-570-854‐1117
  • Doug Lyon, Shiloh Bible Church, 1-570-336‐6766 or 1-570-784‐3667
  • Jeff Bohan, St. Luke’s, 1-570-784‐5035
  • Jenn Parks‐Snyder, 1-570-784‐9271 or 1-570-784‐5165
  • Jane O’Borski, Wesley Methodist, 1-570-784‐1407 or 1-570-784‐3251
  • Joel Zeiders, 1-570-784‐4515
  • Terry Brosius, 1-570-387‐0140 or 1-570-389‐1282
  • Jay Jones, 1-570-784‐1407 or 1-814‐592‐5355

Donations of Money or Other Items and Volunteer Workers

Send or bring cash or checks to:

  • Bloomsburg Red Cross
    119 E. 7th St., Bloomsburg, PA 17815
    Please make payable to “American Red Cross Disaster Relief” and include the memo line: Bloomsburg Chapter
  • Agape, 19 E. 7th St., Bloomsburg, PA 17815 Memo line : Flood relief
  • Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, 725 Front St., Berwick 18603 Memo line: “Disaster Relief Fund for Susquehanna Valley”
  • Columbia Mall, at Mall Services Office
  • Salvation Army, 320 E. 2nd St. Berwick 18603

*It is not possible to donate online to the Red Cross from another area and have it designated for flood relief in this area. Nor is it possible to donate by telephone. Donors are asked to send checks to the local office.
Important Information and Numbers

  • Agape  1-570-317‐2210 http://www.agapelovefromabove.org/
  • Bloomsburg Flood Hotline  1-570-784‐6779
  • Columbia County 1-570-389‐5728
  • National FEMA number 1‐800‐621‐3362
  • Local PEMA numbers 1-570-389‐5606, 1-570-389‐5665 , 1-570-389‐5720
  • Hemlock Township 1-570-784‐6178; 1-570-336‐7297
  • No. Col. County Cultural Center 1-570-925‐0163
  • Bloomsburg Red Cross 1-570-784‐1395
  • Scott Township listen to WHLM
  • St. Repres. David Millard : flood‐related 1-570-387‐0246, or visit 240 Market St.
  • St. Sen. John Gordner : flood‐related 1-570-784‐3464
  • Salvation Army 1-570-387‐4112; 1-570-759‐1214
  • St.Luke’s 1-570-784-5035
  • Agape at Moose Exchange 862‐812‐9855 (Hours 1-6pm on Monday and Thursday and 10-2pm on Saturday)

Columbia County Emergency Management Agency
www.columbiacountyema.org has the following information:

  • Food and Water Safety During Floods
  • Disinfecting Private Wells
  • Safety tips for dealing with flooded property
  • American Red Cross Flood Survival Guide
  • Health Threats from Flood Waters

Technology Tools for Flood Alerts

Because the community is in the middle of a massive flood clean-up and recovery effort, no one wants to think about the next time high waters will affect the area.  However, when one looks at the data, odds indicate that Bloomsburg will be faced with significant flooding again.  Here is the data related to flooding levels along the Susquehanna River near Bloomsburg since 2004 (flood stage at Bloomsburg is 19 feet):

  • September 19, 2004 – 27.1 feet.
  • January 15, 2005 – 20.5
  • March 30, 2005 – 21.4 feet
  • April 4, 2005 – 25.1 feet
  • June 28, 2006 – 28.6 feet
  • March 12, 2011 – 22.5 feet
  • April 29, 2011 22.2 feet
  • September 10, 2011 – 32.7 feet

(Courtesy of the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency)

While this may seem disheartening, there are now technology tools available to alert residents to potential flooding in the area. Any additional preparation time can obviously serve to mitigate losses and ensure the safety of residents.  Two services currently available include the Pennsylvania Alert System  and the Susquehanna River and Creek Alerts from the USGS.

The Pennsylvania Alert System can be set up to notify your email account, cell phone, or pager of any potential emergencies or weather alerts.  All you need to do is set up an account on PA.gov (if you don’t have one already) and identify which accounts you would like alerts sent to.  In addition to weather or emergency alerts, residents can also have health notifications, tax notifications, or building alerts sent too.

The Susquehanna River and Creek Alerts can be set up from the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) website.  To do this, simply go to the website, select “Pennsylvania,” and then choose from the options (surface water, ground water, rain fall, etc.).  The map will present you with various locations and gauges and when you find the one you are interested in, click the link to see current statistics and “subscribe” to that information.  You can then have the alert information sent to your mobile number or your email account and you can set parameters by which the information gets sent (e.g. notify my mobile number when the discharge numbers of this creek gets to a certain point).

While we can’t prevent future flooding, we can certainly attempt to be more prepared.

Columbia County Homes Destroyed Down from Over 1,000 to 141

There is no doubt that Columbia County suffered some of the worst damage in the Northeast from the 1-2 sucker punch that was Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Nonetheless, current statistics are much less severe than previously thought. Rita Inklovitch, executive director of the Bloomsburg Chapter of the Red Cross, provided the following revised statistics for Columbia County as of Oct. 2, 2011. The numbers are dramatically different from the damage that was initially suspected, with an initial estimate of over 1,000 homes destroyed in the County, and another 2,300 homes damaged reported by the Press Enterprise (9-16-11). The numbers currently stand at:

  • 141 homes were destroyed
  • 661 homes sustained major damage
  • 465 homes sustained minor damage
  • 621 homes were affected in some way (less severely than “minor damage”)
  • 1,888 homes in total were affected by the flood

Rita explained that the numbers have now been revised as caseworkers from the Red Cross are visiting each of these homes. “Many of the homes were condemned by the local Townships and have been found to be repairable. Even with water on the first floor, most are repairable.” She also noted that the Red Cross Damage assessment teams have completed their work at this time, and these current numbers are much more accurate.

Lycoming County has apparently suffered similar losses to Columbia County. An article by Amanda Alexander of the Williamsport SunGazette (9-20-11) cited the following statistics provided by Phil Petter of the Northcentral PA Red Cross. 340 homes were deemed uninhabitable, with 190 of them destroyed and another 150 sustaining major damage; and a total of over 1,200 homes in that region affected in some way.

Thus far, New York state appears to have even larger numbers of properties sustaining either major or minor damage, but fewer numbers of properties falling within the “destroyed” category. Steve Reilly reported in an article for pressconnects.com on 9-29-11 that over 7,000 buildings were damaged in the greater Binghamton area, which is seated in Broome County, and an additional 47 were destroyed.

In another article by Reilly on 9-23-11, the overall damage from Tropical Storm Lee was estimated at $250 million in the southern portion of the NY state, according to Mike Morosi, spokesman for US Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley. Both Broome County and Tioga County are seated in this corridor and both have sustained major damages. “In Tioga County, damage to private property is greater than $100 million, according to Assemblyman Gary Finch, R-Union Sp.”

Another staff writer for pressconnects.com, Nancy Dooling, is currently reporting that over 5000 people in the Binghamton region are still displaced by the flood.

Volunteer Information

For the weekend of October 1, 2011. AGAPE is working hard to find new volunteers to help with several initiatives over the weekend. They will be seeking people who can help get any debris out on curbs by Sunday night, people willing to go door to door to do cleanup assessments, and to hand out lists of donated supplies.Those who need help should call AGAPE at 317-2210.

Also if you have box fans, please consider donating them.

Altering the Rhetoric

In Friday’s Press Enterprise is a letter to the editor that casts a very critical view on town and University leaders in the days following the Bloomsburg Flood. The letter, written by a Bloomsburg resident titled, “Town’s attitude angers West Ender,” works to explain how it feels to live in the western part of town — to be branded “west enders” perhaps.

“You think we are fools who only have ourselves to blame for getting flooded. We choose to live in the West End so we got exactly what we deserved, right? We are uneducated and obviously not as “intelligent” as you, or we wouldn’t be in this situation…I live here because my home, like others in the flood zone, was passed down through generations of families.”

When I first lived on the Bloomsburg side of the Susquehanna River, I lived at 245 East Street in a pre-civil war house that my Dad bought at a bank auction. It was in the middle of an ever-increasing press from student housing. I am sure at some point prior to moving there in 1977 (from Wonderview) the whole of East Street were families. I loved living there. There were young families along third and fourth streets where we rode our bikes late into the evening year around. I wasn’t aware that I was living a different life than kids on Market Street. My friends weren’t children of doctors, lawyers, or professors (although my parents were). They were children of the town, almost all Bloomsburg natives. It was the best place in the world to grow up. It made me tough, it made me incredulous, and it made me love Bloomsburg.

We moved to East 12th street when I started 10th grade, but I always look back on my days on East Street as the best of my youth. Socio-economics didn’t matter to me and to this day they don’t. When I was a child, I heard people talk about divides in town, but I was too young and oblivious to really understand. I see it now. I am now reading the wedge issues in the Press and it makes me sad. And the sadness deepens when I read this from that same letter:

“Sadly, we are the ones cast aside; they’ll give us a token or two, but in their eyes we’re just idiots who live too close to the water.”

With that said, I now know the same pain those do in the western part of town — that when the water comes, it takes everything with it as it leaves. And in this flood it leaves more questions to engage in for the longer term than any clean up effort ever will.

Can we climb out of our rage and frustration to build a new sense of empathy? One of the things I find interesting about the letter is that it feels like it has been published to further divide the town, instead of bind it. I can completely understand where the author is coming from and I know it is from a position of anger and frustration. I feel both of those. I’ve walked the devastation in Bloomsburg. I am outraged by much of what has gone on, but I would also urge us to work to feel a sense of change happening.

The free trash collection was ended early, but it was brought back with clear instructions on how it would proceed after residents voiced concerns. The Block Party is a disaster, but the way the University came to the aid of the town has been inspiring. This is a chance for positive and restorative messages, ones I would love to see published openly in the Press Enterprise and online so people in and outside of Bloomsburg can engage in a new form of conversation regarding a town that is about one community and not multiples. What will it take for us to alter the rhetoric that has dominated our community for so long? Engaging that question is critical to our relief effort.

Update: This letter also appeared in the Press Enterprise as a letter to the editor.