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Saturday, September 10, 2011

CITIZENS’VOICE COVERING THE GREATER WYOMING VALLEY

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SPECIAL FLOOD COVERAGE EDITION

‘Extremely stressed’ levee system holds at an historic level

42.66 feet

© 2011 The Citizens’ Voice

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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

2 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // ‘EXTREME LIMITS OF FLOOD CONTROL’

LEVEE PUSHED

By Michael R. Sisak Staff Writer

The Susquehanna River surged to a record crest of 42.66 feet in Wilkes-Barre early Friday, inflicting unprecedented stress on the Luzerne County levee system and devastating flooding on communities not guarded by the floodwalls. Coffee-colored river water stained streets and structures from Jenkins Township to Shickshinny, in some areas smelling like gasoline; rescuers pulled a family from a rapidly filling home in West Pittston; and workers worked throughout the day and night to plug leaking portions of the levee in Forty Fort and Wilkes-Barre. Gov. Tom Corbett and U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey toured flood-ravaged communities and pledged ample state and federal assistance. President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency early Friday morning. “We are at the extreme limits of the flood control system,” said Jim Brozena, the executive director of the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority. The river crested around 3 a.m. Friday, surpassing the previous record high of 40.91 feet during Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972, but the figure remained unknown for hours

after a river gauge malfunctioned Thursday night. The levee system, protecting Wilkes-Barre and several neighboring communities, was built to withstand river levels up to 44 feet, Brozena said. The river receded rapidly after cresting, falling to 37.4 feet by 8 p.m., county officials said. Residents in the floodplain will not be allowed to return home until the river falls below 28 feet, which could come sometime today. Col. Dave Anderson of the Army Corps of Engineers reported Friday afternoon that the levee system was performing “extraordinarily well” despite concerns about leaks in Forty Fort, WilkesBarre and Hanover Township. Still, Anderson warned, “this flood fight is not over. This flood system, this levee system has been incredibly stressed.” Anderson, echoing the words of state and county officials, advised residents of communities nearest the river to heed a mandatory evacuation order issued Thursday and remain far from the river until officials declare it is safe to return. “Put space between yourselves and the water,” Anderson said. Corbett aide Bill Goldsworthy, the former mayor of West Pittston, had a more dire

INSIDE TODAY’S VOICE (ISSN 1070-8626) USPS 450-590 The Citizens’ Voice is published daily by Times-Shamrock, 75 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. Periodicals postage is paid at Wilkes-Barre, PA. Postmaster: Send address changes to The Citizens’ Voice, 75 N. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. 1-year, Luzerne County, $130.

ON THE COVER: An aerial view of the Susquehanna River as it snaked through Wilkes-Barre on Friday. (Michael J. Mullen / Times-Shamrock)

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JENKINS TOWNSHIP: U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey leans over to get a closer look at debris piled up near the Eighth Street Bridge. At left is Luzerne County Commissioner Stephen A. Urban. warning: “You could die.” Brozena announced the revised crest figure around 1 p.m. following a closed-door meeting with county leaders and emergency planners. The

INDEX

Almanac 47 Advice 28 Birthdays 31 Business A3 Classifieds A6-B10 Comics 24-26 Editorial 16 Horoscope 28 National A1 Obituaries 34-35 Public Notices A6 Puzzles 25-26 Sports 38-48 Stocks A4 Television 28

National Weather Service previously reported the river cresting at 9:45 p.m., Thursday at 38.83 feet. The U.S. Geological Survey, which maintains the flood

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Police apprehend copper thieves Five people were arrested and charged in thefts of copper from transmission tower. Page 35

created a false sense of security among residents confident in the integrity of the levee system, Corbett said. SEE LEVEE, NEXT PAGE

TODAY’S FORECAST

NIGHT

Daily # 490 9885

gauges, confirmed the crest level Friday morning after emergency officials noticed unanticipated flooding effects, Brozena said. The disparity may have

Fog during the morning; some sun with a couple of thunderstorms today. Winds northnortheast 4-8 mph.

78 58 WILKES-BARRE EXTENDED FORECAST

Average normal highs/lows for the week: 74/53: A couple of showers and a thunderstorm tomorrow afternoon. Winds southsouthwest 3-6 mph. Clouds and sun Monday. Winds northwest 612 mph. Mostly sunny Tuesday.

S U N D AY

73

58

Showers/tstorms Last year: 75/46

M O N D AY

78

Partly sunny 62/57

58

T U E S D AY

80

Mostly sunny 77/53

60

Forecasts and graphics provided by AccuWeather, Inc. ©2011

W E D N E S D AY

76

51

A t-storm possible 72/48

T H U R S D AY

67

45

Plenty of sunshine 70/46


ASSESSMENT // ‘EXTREME LIMITS OF FLOOD CONTROL’

TO THE LIMIT

Devastation in perspective By Josh McAuliffe Staff Writer

WEST PITTSTON: Sens. Bob Casey, left, and Pat Toomey speak with local officials Friday morning. MARK MORAN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

The city used a motorboat to rescue five people stuck in the neighborhood. PPL Electric Utilities also shut off power to about 65 homes in the area. “It goes without saying that Wilkes-Barre has experienced long days this week, and we believe it will be a long weekend,” Leighton said, adding that evacuees could be allowed home Sunday at the earliest. Friday afternoon, a contingent of city officials led by Operations Director Butch Frati pointed out minor leaks along the levee and surveyed the water spurting from the Market Street Bridge floodgates. Though Leighton said it could cost up to $300,000 to replace a damaged wall along Mill Creek, he could not yet place an exact monetary number on damages in they city. An elderly woman was found dead in her flooded West Pittston basement Friday, but officials could not confirm whether her death was flood related. Residents in West Pittston and other areas not protected by the levee system reported flooding levels higher than those during the previous high, in the wake of Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. “I don’t care what they say the level was,” Carolyn White said, “It was higher here in West Pittston than it was then.” BOB KALINOWSKI, ANDREW STAUB and PATRICK SWEET, staff writers, contributed to this report. msisak@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2061, @cvmikesisak

SEE VIEW, PAGE 14

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 – 3

of River Street and past the Sterling Hotel on Market Street, may have appeared dire but were not a major concern, Brozena said. “There was never a structural issue with those walls,” Brozena said, adding that the water rushing through the walls did not move at a significant velocity. Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien led a team of 10 workers from his county’s road and bridge department in a round-the-clock operation to move rocks and dirt into the path of the gushing water, directing it away from a pump station and riverfront businesses. Workers also stabilized a disturbance in the Brown Creek Pressure culvert in Plymouth, filling holes measuring 15 feet in diameter after the swift currents removed metal coverings, Brozena said. The high river levels also wreaked havoc on transportation infrastructure. A massive mound of debris collected against the north side of the partially submerged Eighth Street Bridge near Wyoming, redirecting raging waters toward the already swollen shores. County officials said Friday they feared extensive damage to the Pierce Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre. In Wilkes-Barre, Mayor Tom Leighton urged residents to respect the danger of the unprecedented river levels and unpredictable creeks running through the city. Earlier that day, he ordered a mandatory evacuation for about 300 people living in the Brookside section of the city when two swollen creeks sent water cascading over at least two streets.

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

FROM PREVIOUS PAGE “My concern is if we have a breach, people are just not paying attention and there will be water sweeping down from Forty Fort,” Corbett said. Engineers worked into the wee hours Friday and again Friday afternoon to fortify a 200-foot section of levee along the Susquehanna River in Forty Fort that developed “stability issues” as rising floodwaters saturated the ground. Brozena said Friday afternoon he believed workers had “turned a corner” on efforts to fortify a section of the levee in Forty Fort. Brozena said officials were concerned about “under seepage,” a phenomenon where water courses under the levee walls and forces its way into areas normally protected by the levee. Workers built a stabilizing berm along the section of the levee, placing filter fabric and rock materials against the floodwalls in an effort to negate heavy pressure created by the high river levels, Brozena said. Officials were monitoring the berm to guard against possible breaches, Brozena said. Anderson, who arrived in Wilkes-Barre around 2:30 p.m. after touring other flooded parts of the state, said the record river levels had been “a real stressor to the entire system.” The river continued to leak through blown gaskets at the floodgates along the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre, Brozena said. Images of the flooding, across a wide stretch

The clouds parted and the sun finally emerged after a too-long absence. All in all, the perfect afternoon for a joyride high above the Susquehanna River. The scenery was less pleasant. On Friday, Times-Tribune staff members took to the skies in a Piper Archer II plane to get an aerial view of the havoc the Susquehanna unleashed on the towns that line its overturned banks. Flying out of Tech Aviation Flight School at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, with pilot Jeremy Morris at the controls, the plane traveled north to Towanda, in Bradford County, then turned around and made its way down to Shickshinny in Luzerne County. Traveling a few thousand feet above the winding, overloaded river gives a different perspective, literally and figuratively. Seeing devastation for mile after unobstructed mile lent perspective to the enormity of the disaster: millions of dollars, or more, in property damage, and untold lives upended. The lofty vantage point also highlights how these towns are — even those relatively unscathed by the storm’s effects. They are not islands unto themselves, although from above some now resembled islands surrounded by acres of muddy, filthy water. In Tunkhannock, a day after the river and Tunkhannock Creek unleashed their fury downtown, the water appeared to be receding, although it could still be seen running up to the walls of many of the quaint town’s landmarks, including Gay’s True Value Hardware. Farther north, the Proctor & Gamble plant in Mehoopany loomed just as prominently. From the middle distance, the sprawling property looked to be untouched. That could not be said of the tightly-woven collection of houses on the other side of the river. Nearby, a single vehicle traveled along a rusty metal blue bridge, while a fire truck parked along Route 6 near Laceyville sprayed plumes of water into the air. And Wyalusing High School? It’s now beachfront property. A steady caravan of cars crossed the Route 6 bridge into downtown Towanda, but the town had plenty of still-submerged pockets. There was no action on the runways at its partially underwater airport. The plane turned around and headed south.


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

4 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // RIVER UNDER PRESSURE

PITTSTON: A flooded Susquehanna River looking south. The river crested at 42.66 feet Friday, nearly 2 feet higher than the 1972 Agnes record. MICHAEL J. MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

Levee system withstands test By Patrick Sweet Staff Writer The record-breaking height of the Susquehanna River was the most severe test of the Wyoming Valley levee system to date, and, in several parts of the county, officials scrambled to make sure the system didn’t fail that test. The river eclipsed the 1972 Agnes record of 40.91 feet, cresting at 42.66 feet around 3 a.m. Friday. A faulty gauge, though, caused the National Weather Service to initially report the river peaking at 38.83 feet, causing a false sense of hope at the county’s Emergency Management Agency that Luzerne County would escape better than projected. Jim Brozena, director of the county Flood Protection Authority, said Friday that issues around the county made the initial report appear incorrect. “We saw some things on the levee,” Brozena said, “that were suspect at those (river) levels.” Intense pressure from the massive volume of water, he said, began causing issues along the levee system. In Forty Fort, the river pushed its way underneath the levee early Thursday night, causing water to seep through to the other side and threatening the integrity of the system. The Army Corps of Engineers with the help of the Pennsylvania National Guard used a fabric cover and tons of sand, gravel and rock to hold the water at bay and try to equalize pressure on both sides of the levee.

WILKES-BARRE: Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency Director Steve Bekanich, left, along with county Flood Protection Authority Director Jim Brozena, said some leaking was expected through the flood gate seals. KRISTEN MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

“We had under-seepage problems,” Brozena said. “… The reports we have from the field is that we’ve made good progress on that. We believe we’ve turned the corner.” Concerns in Forty Fort, though, continued through 6:30 p.m. Friday as state police walked the streets in the area, knocking on doors and urging people remaining in

their homes to obey the evacuation order. Col. Dave Anderson, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District, and Brozena expressed confidence in the levee system. “This levee system has been incredibly stressed due to this event,” Anderson said. “It performed as designed to provide exactly the protection for which the American people paid for this project and local folks as well.” At the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre, water continued to leak through flood gate seals on Friday. Brozena and EMA Director Steve Bekanich have both said some leaking is expected because the structure isn’t permanent and the water pressure was considerably high. “Those seals were forced out,” Brozena said. “There was never a structural issue.” The Army Corps of Engineers and National Guard troops set up pumps and built makeshift rock and sand barricades to ease flooding in Wilkes-Barre along River Street. As the day wore on, briefings from officials began to slow down as the projections showed the river beginning to recede. The evacuation order will remain in effect until the river level reaches 28 feet, sometime Saturday night. The river was projected to be at 38.1 feet at 8 p.m. Friday. “There is nearly 40 feet of water that is sitting in that river right now, and it is dangerous,” Brozena said. “Twenty-eight feet is the number where we start to feel very comfortable.”


ASSESSMENT // WEST SIDE

EDWARDSVILLE: Flood waters rose past the entrance to Kmart on Friday. KRISTEN MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

Mark Plaza inundated

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

EDWARDSVILLE: Borough police helped a Redner’s Warehouse Market employee get to his car after flood waters intruded. KRISTEN MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 – 5

Dozens of onlookers were gathering on the top of the levee Friday afternoon by the Mark Plaza to see several flooded retail buildings, including Kmart and Redner’s Warehouse Market. The river was about 7 feet shy of the top of the levee. Many onlookers were walking dogs and socializing. Police were trying to keep them off the levee. “We are still in a danger zone,” Councilman Gary Mack said, noting flood water pressure on the levee. A flood wall was erected on Route 11 and connected the earthen levees on both sides of the road. “This has held up pretty well,” Mack said. Other flooded businesses included Long John Silver’s, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Dollar General, Payless Shoes and That Bounce Place. Edwardsville Mayor Bernard “Ace” Dubaskas said borough police helped a Redner’s employee get to his car Thursday afternoon as the river began to take over the Mark Plaza parking lot. In Larksville, the Carey Avenue Bridge remained open Friday, but four businesses on U.S. Route 11 near the bridge were flooded. The river didn’t reach the Lark Diner on Route 11. The river flooded Adult World, the Lukoil gas station, Main Beverage Beer and Glen Bottling Co. — Michael P. Buffer


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

6 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // WILKES-BARRE

Unprecedented danger

Floodwaters rage as officials admonish residents to keep out By Andrew Staub and Tom Brolley Staff Writers WILKES-BARRE — As emergency personnel rescued five people from a flooded Brookside neighborhood and officials canvassed the levee along the Susquehanna River for damage Friday, Mayor Tom Leighton reminded residents to respect the danger of the unprecedented water levels. “This is the largest river crest that we have experienced and one of the most serious natural disasters that we’ve encountered,” Leighton said. “We will work around the clock and exhaust every resource we have to get the city back to work and functioning on a normal basis. It will take time, but we will come back.” While South Wilkes-Barre remained devoid of people and vehicles following a mandatory evacuation ordered Thursday, about 300 residents of a northern section of the city found themselves fleeing Friday morning when two creeks swelled and covered at least two Brookside streets with up to 5 feet of water. Rescuers used a motor boat to evacuate five people and three dogs from the neighborhood, city fire Chief Jay Delaney said. The city also took PPL Electric Utility workers on the boat to shut off power to about 65 homes, he said. Leighton urged all residents who had to leave their homes to remain out of the flood zone. The city has found people trying to return to their homes early, and Leighton said those who do risk arrest. “I can’t stress enough that people must evacuate from the flood zone and take our warning seriously,” Leighton said. “This is a very dangerous situation for all of us, including our professional service members.” Residents could be allowed home on Sunday, Leighton said. Emergency shelters have been set up in GAR High School, Solomon/ Plains Junior High School and Hanover Area High School. City and state police and the National Guard again planned to patrol the deserted Wilkes-Barre streets overnight after four looters were arrested between Thursday and Friday, Leighton said. After Leighton addressed the media, Wilkes-Barre Operations Director Butch Frati led a group of city officials along the river Friday afternoon. The contingent surveyed water gurgling from soaked earth near a Riverside Drive pumping station, and assis-

MICHAEL R. SISAK / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

WILKES-BARRE: Firefighters and a utility worker boat down Weir Lane in the Hollenback section.

WILKES-BARRE: A view of the river looking south into the bend at Riverside Drive.

DAVE SCHERBENCO / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

tant city attorney Bill Vinsko ventured to the top of the levee to watch storm water rush from a manhole at a pumping station near Barney Farms. “Another ‘remember when’ moment,” said Vinsko, who lives in Barney Farms. Workers placed sandbags over a leak in a levee gate near the Black Diamond Bridge on Thursday night, said city spokesman Drew McLaughlin. Though a steady flow trickled from under the gate Friday, the volume and the velocity of the leak had decreased considerably, city officials said. By late Friday afternoon, Frati and his group reached the Market Street Bridge, where water continued to spurt from gaps in the flood gate and fill the street by the Hotel

Sterling. While the flooding stretched up and down River Street, Frati said it was a much more welcome scene than the “torrid” water that swamped River Street from Union to Northampton streets Thursday. While Leighton said he was confident the levee system would hold, a more immediate problem arose when Laurel Run and Mill creeks clogged Brookside streets when overwhelmed flood pumps couldn’t sustain the creeks’ flow into the swollen river. A steady hum echoed through the streets as pumps spewed water from several flooded homes on North Pennsylvania Avenue. Soda cans, coffee cups and other debris washed down Weir Street toward a stop sign submerged in up to 5 feet of water. Kurt Kwak, who owns a home and law

MARK MORAN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

firm at the corner of Weir Street and North Pennsylvania Avenue, pumped water from a fully saturated basement Friday afternoon. He avoided further flooding to the home that has been in his family for 100 years, he said. “My only concern was my grandparents’ antique furniture that I have in the office,” he said. Up the street, two girls donned waders to offer PPL employees water and sandwiches, while Ted Ritsick of Mill Street walked down North Pennsylvania Avenue to survey the water that had collected in backyards. Ritsick had never seen anything like it. “This is something,” he said. astaub@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2052 tbrolley@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2054


ASSESSMENT // ‘WE GOT CLOBBERED’

Water, mud saturate West Pittston streets By Michael R. Sisak and Bob Kalinowski Staff Writers

SHICKSHINNY: Eddie Whitesell sits on Spruce Street in front of his house, which is completely engulfed by the Susquehanna River. He didn’t expect the water to come up so quickly or so high. ELIZABETH SKRAPITS / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

WEST PITTSTON: Army National Guard members rescue some residents from their homes Friday. At least 350 properties reported damage from the flood. RALPH FRANCELLO / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

‘We’re a small community, we have 4,800 people, we have some resources but not enough to combat this.’ TONY DENISCO West Pittston mayor

SEE WEST PITTSTON, PAGE 36

By Elizabeth Skrapits Staff Writer

SHICKSHINNY — Eddie Whitesell sat on a folding chair on Spruce Street, watching the muddy, swollen Susquehanna River just yards away swirl around his house up to the second floor. “It moved so fast,” he said. “I only had a little pickup truck. I had to take out what I could.” Like most residents in the one-traffic-light town, Whitesell didn’t expect the Susquehanna River to rise so quickly, or rise higher than the 1972 Tropical Storm Agnes flood. The resulting flood blocked most roads into town, including U.S. Route 11, and damaged at least 75 percent of the borough and about 150 homes, Mayor Beverly Moore estimated. About 20 people and five dogs were rescued by boat Tuesday, Shickshinny Fire Chief Kevin Morris said. Hardest hit were Susquehanna Avenue, McClintock Street and Canal Street, where water reached the second floor of many houses, including Whitesell’s. He said he only had about 2 feet of water on the first floor during the September 2004 and June 2006 floods. “This is worse than ’72,” said Charlie Noss, who was hanging out with family members in front of his house on Route 11. “I think a lot of people know that by now,” said Melvin Hess, whose North Canal Street house was completely flooded. The intersection of Route 11 and Union Street, Shickshinny’s business center was inundated, with water above the doors of the Wells Fargo bank and SEE SHICKSHINNY, PAGE 36

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 – 7

water was rushing inside it. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, we’re in trouble,” Kuharchik said. By that time, the first floor was emptied out by the 4 p.m. evacuation order, 3 feet of water lined his front yard and friends carried him to safety. “We ran out of time,” Kuharchik said. During their visit Friday, Casey and Toomey talked with residents at the corner of Montgomery and Wyoming avenues, the veritable dividing line in the community between dry pavement and submerged earth. They visited a nearby National Guard armory — where floodwaters swallowed a tank and most of the first floor — and the Eighth Street Bridge, spanning the Susquehanna River from Wyoming Borough to Jenkins Township. “It’s substantial, substantial damage in a lot of communities,” Casey said, standing with Toomey in front of a submerged section of Wyoming Avenue. The senators said they would work together with the state’s House delegation to secure federal relief. President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration early Friday clearing the way for federal

funding to repair damage and prevent future flooding. They said they had already been in contact with Gov. Tom Corbett and officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They were joined on the tour by county and local officials. “We’ve got to stay at this, day after day, week after week to make sure that folks get the help they need and to make sure that we continue to work together,” Casey said. The borough needs help, Denisco said. “We’re a small community, we have 4,800 people, we have some resources but not enough to combat this,” Denisco said. “The people of West Pittston are good people and we will fight back.” About 1,200 residents remained without power by Friday night, the mayor said. Carolyn White, confined to a motorized chair and accompanied by her 215-pound Great Dane named Jet, told Casey she had at least 2 feet of water in her home on Lacoe Street, about two blocks from the river. “It pretty much destroyed everything in the backyard, the basement, the brand new furnace and everything that was put in — that’s all destroyed,” White’s son, Bob, said. Bob anticipated the flooding would claim most of his mother’s furniture, her piano, stove and dishwasher and possibly a handicapped ramp that aids her egress from the home. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Carolyn lamented.

Fast-moving flood surprised Shickshinny residents

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

Amid the hum of generators and sump pumps, a large swath of West Pittston remained with power though inundated with water Friday. At least 350 properties in the riverside community sustained water damage from the record flood, including some homes with water invading second floors, borough officials said. For many property owners, the overwhelming damage was unexpected — their homes hadn’t even taken on an inch of water during the 1972 Agnes flood. U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican, toured the floodravaged borough on Friday morning, speaking with displaced residents and getting a close-up view of damage. “This is worse than 1972,” said Mayor Tony Denisco, whose son’s house had water rise 6 inches from the second floor. “I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be like this.” Dozens of homes remained unreachable except by boat Friday and Denisco said they likely would remain isolated until at least 5 p.m. on Saturday. Dan Grabowski, 26, said he went by boat to check on his parent’s house on York Avenue. Several feet of water remained on the first floor. “We tried to push open the door, but you couldn’t open it because of the water,” Grabowski said. He envisioned long days ahead. “It’s going to be a long cleanup,” Grabowski said. “This mud is disgusting.” When approached by a reporter, one man returning on a boat said, “I really don’t have anything to say. It’s horrible.” Borough officials said at least three properties have significant structural damage. On Susquehanna Avenue, Walt Kuharchick, 71, power-washed his house, which took on 3 feet of water on the first floor. “We got clobbered,” Kuharchick said. His 1885 Colonial home, filled with antique furniture, was supposed to be on display for a tour next Saturday for a fundraiser by the West Pittston Historical Society. Kuharchik said the river across the street didn’t even come close to topping the road’s edge in 1972. Still, he heeded the pre-flood warnings and got everything in his basement and first floor out of harm’s way. He was not sure if he was going to clear out the first floor until water started to rise quickly on Thursday. By the time his basement was emptied,


8 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

d

ASSESSMENT // IMPORTANT CONTACT INFO, ADVICE

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ROADS & BRIDGES

EVACUATIONS

A mandatory evacuation remains in effective for residents of a 22-mile swath from Exeter to Shickshinny. While the Susquehanna River slowly recedes from its record 42.66-foot rise, officials warn residents and curious onlookers to remain out of areas in the flood plain. The record-high level has “incredibly stressed” the levee system, officials said Friday.

EMERGENCY SHELTERS

• Solomon/Plains Junior High School, 570-826-7222 • State Street Elementary School in Larksville was at capacity Friday. • West Side CTC, 75 Evans St. Pringle. • Wyoming Area Secondary School in Wyoming, 570-814-8780

• Dallas Middle School, 570-417-6086 • GAR High School in Wilkes-Barre was at capacity Friday. • Hanover Area High School, 570-7600614 or 570-831-2300 • Lake-Lehman High School, 570-5912052, 570-760-8944, 570-690-4109 • Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke, 570-591-2052 • Northwest Area High School • Misericordia University in Dallas, 570332-2937 • Pittston Area High School, 570-8170885 • Plymouth Twp. Municipal Building, 925 W. Main St., Plymouth Twp.

Special info: For shelters at capacity, the American Red Cross asks that residents try to go to a different location. Pets are allowed in the shelter. Pets must be in a kennel and they must be up to date on shots. Residents are asked to bring proof of shots and food for pets. For additional information, call the American Red Cross at 570-823-716

UTILITIES

CLEANUP TIPS

Power and natural gas have been shut off to nearly 2,200 customers in Luzerne County, nearly 1,400 in West Pittston. PPL advises customers to arrange for electrical inspections at their properties prior to power being restored. Natural gas service has been shut off to about 1,700 in the Wilkes-Barre area.

• Clean and disinfect washable surfaces that have come in contact with floodwaters. Wash with soap and water; then disinfect with a mixture of household bleach and water – one and a quartercup of bleach per gallon of water if floodwaters come from sewers and a quarter-cup of bleach to a gallon of water if floodwaters aren’t tainted by sewage. UGI • Never mix household bleach with amCustomers whose natural gas service is monia or any other cleaner. Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and eye protection affected by severe flooding are asked to call UGI Penn Natural Gas at 1-800-276- when disinfecting surfaces and try not to breathe bleach fumes. 2722. Submerged gas meters or regula• Discard upholstered furniture, mattors must be turned off and inspected by qualified utility personnel before service tresses, bedding and stuffed toys soaked can be restored. Under no circumstances in floodwaters. should a customer attempt to turn the gas • Soaked and soiled carpeting should also be discarded. If you try to salvage back on themselves, a UGI spokesman carpeting, dry it out and then shampoo it advised. UGI personnel will restore each with a commercial rug cleaner. individual gas service and relight pilots to • Clean, dry and check your furnace, functioning equipment when it is safe to water heater, washer, dryer and other apdo so. pliances before using them. Don’t handle electrical equipment in wet areas. PPL Call a plumber or an electrician, if needed. PPL advises customers to report outages and other power emergencies, in- • To remove odors from refrigerators and cluding downed power lines, immediately freezers, use warm water with a detergent and wipe dry. If an odor persists, try a by calling 1-800-DIAL-PPL (1-800-3425775). When prompted, press 1 for “elec- solution of one teaspoon of baking soda trical emergency.” PPL warns customers to or one cup of household ammonia per gallon of water. stay clear of electrical equipment where • Throw away foods that have come in there is standing water, such as a basecontact with floodwaters. ment.

PennDOT advises all drivers in flood-affected areas to avoid traveling unless absolutely necessary. Floodwaters prevent drivers from seeing if a roadway is compromised, and can be deeper than they appear. Potholes and sinkholes can also develop due to the weight of the water.

BRIDGES

The Cross Valley Expressway and Carey Avenue bridges remained late Friday the only two bridges connecting the east and west side in the Greater Wyoming Valley.

ROAD CLOSURES • State Route 29 between Exit 3 (Nanticoke) and Exit 2 (Wilkes Barre/Alden) • Conyngham: State Route 239 between State Route 3036/80 in Nescopeck and US 11 • Duryea: State Route 2006 (Main Street) between Phoenix Street and Stephenson Street • Fairmount Township: State Route 4013 (Mossville Road) at the intersection of Bethel Hill Rd in Fairmount to the intersection of State Route 118; State Route 4015 (Bethel Hill Road) between Mossville Road and Johnson/ Talcott Hill Road • Hanover Township: State Route 2001 (Ashley Street/St. Mary’s Road) between West Cemetery Street in Ashley and Main Street; State Route 2002 East (Main Street/Sans Souci Parkway) between Kosciuszko Avenue/Jefkin Street in Nanticoke and Trailer Park Road • Hunlock Creek: State Route 4016 (Main Road/Hunlock-Harveyville Road) between Sorbertown Hill Road and Hartmen Road to Reyburn Road; State Route 11 South between the intersections from 4016/0260 SH in Hunlock to Columbia County (19) • Jenkins Township: State Route 2004 (River Street/Main Street/Carey Ave) between Carey Street in Plains and Thompson Street • Kingston: State Route 1029 (Manor Drive/Dug Road/North Street) between Highland Avenue and Mapleleaf Road • Lehman Township: State Route 29 between US 11 North and Hartman Road • Nanticoke: State Route 2002 West (Main Street/ Sans Souci Parkway) at the intersections of Dundee Road in Hanover to the intersection of Market Street/Main Street; State Route 2002

West (Main Street/Sans Souci Parkway) between the intersection of Trailer Park Road in Hanover and Market Street/Main Street • Nescopeck: State Route 93 between Miner Street and Broad Street; State Route 339 between Smith Hollow Road in Mifflin and Broad Street; State Route 3015 (Broad Street/Black Street) between West Zenith and Broad Street • Newport Township: State Route 3004 (Main Street/Newport Street/ Kirmar Avenue) between Main Street/ Pond Hill Road in Conyngham and Gruver Street/Alden Mountain Road • Noxen: State Route 415 between Lake Drive in Harvey’s Lake and State Route 29 • Pittston: State Route 2019 (Columbus Avenue/Oak Street/Tedrick Street); State Route 2024 (Main Street/Maffett Street) between James Musto BP in Jenkins and Tedrick Street/Yatesville Road • Plains Township: State Route 2004 (Main Street/Carey Avenue) between Haines Street and Poplar Street. • Salem Township: State Route 4004 (West Butler Street/Shickshinney Valley Road) between Saw Mill Road and Carson Lane • Shickshinny: State Route 11 North is closed between the intersections of Walnut St in Berwick to the intersections of 239/188 • Slocum Township: State Route 3008 (Ruckle Hill Road/Blytheburn Road) between Miner Street in Conyngham and Schmids Road • West Pittston: State Route 11 between Spruce Street in Salem and Susquehanna Avenue • Wilkes-Barre: State Route 1009 (Market Street) between SR 11 (Wyoming Ave) in Kingston and River Street/ Market Street • Wyoming: State Route 1021 (8th Street Bridge).

YOU CAN HELP The Wyoming Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross is asking for donations to help with the costs to shelter the Wyoming Valley’s displaced residents. To donate: Write checks to the Wyoming Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross at 256 N. Sherman St., WilkesBarre, Pa. 18702.


ASSESSMENT // UNPRECEDENTED DAMAGE

Homes, businesses inundated in Plains Residents of Plainsville lost their bet with the Susquehanna River. Fire officials said Friday that homeowners in that area were inundated with water in their basements and first floors. The fire department also lost a fire truck that was stationed in case an emergency occurred during a flood. The area typically becomes an island when the river floods, so many residents stay when such situations occur, officials said. The waters along River Street were receding Friday, although many homes and businesses were still partially submerged. The waters ranged along and over River Street from Courtright Street past the Eighth Street Bridge and into Jenkins Township, taking over businesses like Randu’s Southern and Open Pit Barbeque, according to residents. Police reopened River Street from Haines Place to Gallagher Street during the afternoon. The waters had risen past businesses like Advanced Pain Management Specialists and the Cross Valley Medical Building. The convenience store where Tom Selemba works on River Street was untouched, but he was very concerned about his home on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston. “The owners here have a direct line to God,” he said. “But I’m a nervous wreck.” — Kristen Gaydos

Creek, river leave Honey Pot flooded

By Denis J. O’Malley Staff Writer

WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

He found the problem below, through the 15-foot hole the floodwaters broke through the foundation of his home. “The entire basement … It filled it all the way up to the first floor,” he said. On Main Street, the most significant flooding in the borough began in the area of the Bernard J. Piontek Funeral home. Across the street a Pontiac sedan sat half-submerged in floodwater. When reports came in that an individual was on a raft in the floodwater, Pennsylvania National Guard Staff Sgt. Larry Huffman drove his Humvee into the waters and past that car to seek out the man. Not long after, the Germania Hose Company deployed a rapid inflatable boat into the flood waters and sailed about 500 yards down Main Street to pick Huffman and a passenger up from the roof of the vehicle, which sat in about 6 feet of water. J.J. Gorrick, a resident of the 200 block of Main Street, said he saw the humvee heading for the water, wondering why it would drive down a decline into the flood. “All of a sudden it started going sideways. It started floating,” Gorrick said. When the boat returned to the water’s edge with the two men aboard, all Nancy Parrick wanted was for it turn around and bring her back the way it came, to her home at 101 Main St.

“(After Hurricane Agnes) I was in the house the next morning. We cut through the woods and went right in,” said Parrick, who begrudgingly evacuated her home Thursday night. As the rescue concluded, Germania Hose Co. Firefighter

WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

Mike Wall’s feelings on the flood could not have been any farther from Parrick’s. “I don’t think people understand there’s a disaster here,” Wall said. “People need to stop coming to town.” domalley@timesshamrock.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 – 9

DURYEA — Lois Waters thought the dikes along the Lackawanna River would keep her home safe. So did Dave Curtis. So did John Coyne. But like hundreds of their neighbors along the Lackawanna River, the dikes did not matter Thursday. “They wouldn’t sell us flood insurance so now what does everybody do?” said Waters, whose home at 511 Watt St. backs up to the dikes. Fear and pain were widespread here Friday. Duryea Mayor Keith Moss estimated about 400 residents have been evacuated from the borough and about 35 homes on Coxton Road alone have been affected. “We’re still pumping our Main Street,” he said. “We still have water across our Main Street.” After the Lower Lackawanna Valley Sanitary Authority on Coxton Road went underwater Thursday, the sewage and waste water of the six municipalities the authority serves began backing up into the river and into homes in Duryea, the last stop on the authority’s drainage pipeline, said Tom McDermott, executive director of the authority. When the surging Susquehanna began backing up into the Lackawanna where the two rivers meet late Thursday and started seeping water into the streets, Coyne did what he could to raise appliances off the ground in his basement at 51 S. Main St. before he evacuated. “You could replace that,” Coyne said Friday, standing at the floodwater’s edge on South Main Street, about 200 feet from his home surrounded by 5 feet of water. “It’s all the memories and stuff that you can’t replace. We didn’t get that out.” Curtis did not have flood insurance on his home at 109111 Dickson St., about half a block away from the dikes behind Watt Street. “It never seemed to be a problem,” he said. And it was not a problem for the first floor of the home, he said, which did not get a drop.

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

The Honey Pot section of Nanticoke took on island status Thursday night into Friday as rising water from Forge Creek combined with the Susquehanna River to surround the elevated area. The point where North Market Street and Access Road meet took on heavy water, as did the area where River Street meets Garfield Street. As of Friday night, residents had access to the area via Garfield Street through Whitney Points property. “We’re certainly not used to this kind of flooding in this area,” Nanticoke Mayor Joe Dougherty said. “Both the creek and river contributed to this and as soon as the water goes down, all the roads will open back up. That might be Sunday, but we just have to see how it goes.” According to Dougherty, between 700 and 800 people live in Honey Pot. Only one home at the bottom of River Street was affected as it took on water in its basement. A regulator station flooded Friday, affecting gas service to 100 customers, according to UGI spokesman Donald Brominski. “We are in the process of shutting off gas to the station with valves,” he said. “When the water recedes and allows access, we will fix the station and restore service.” — Jill Snowdon

Duryea takes hard hit


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

10 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // WAITING TO RETURN HOME; SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION

Evacuees eager to return home Some leave shelters before officials lift evacuation orders By Tom Brolley Staff Writer Tom Benson, the American Red Cross shelter manager at GAR High School, heard the same question many times Friday: When can we go home? “We don’t know yet, we’re waiting here too,” Benson said. “But Mr. Sunshine is coming out and that’s the best thing. The faster the sun comes out, the faster everything dries up.” Friday’s sun did its best to help the Susquehanna River recede. It crested at a record level of 42.66 feet early Friday morning. The rain finally stopped and the sun came back for the first time on Thursday afternoon. The sun continued to shine Friday afternoon and perhaps gave displaced residents a false sense of safety after the crest. The river levels gradually dipped Friday afternoon, but displaced residents are still advised to stay in shelters until the mandatory evacuations are lifted. Gary Van Scoy, Red Cross shelter manager at State Street Elementary School in Larksville, said the earliest the evacuations can be lifted is when the river falls below 30 feet, as set by Luzerne County commissioners. River projections estimated the waters could dip below 30 feet by late Saturday afternoon. Until the evacuation is lifted, 11 Wyoming Valley Red Cross shelters will continue to host displaced residents. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Wyoming Valley residents stayed in shelters Thursday night, said Brian Wrightson, director of emergency services for Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania. The State Street shelter housed its capacity of about 300 people. A few displaced residents at the State Street shelter left Friday and headed back to their homes in evacuated areas. Gov. Tom Corbett toured the Wyoming Valley on Friday and sternly warned residents to stay out of evacuated areas. Van Scoy said the Red Cross can’t do much to stop people from the leaving the shelters before evacuation orders are lifted. “We try to remind them there’s still lots of flood water and we advise them of the dangers,” Van Scoy said. “We also warned them that they could be arrested. We’d rather them be here than somewhere else but we can’t hold them against their will.” The GAR shelter also reached its capacity at 356 people. The Solomon/Plains Junior High School saw only 86 people on Thursday night but volunteers were ready Friday for more residents after the Brookside section of Wilkes-Barre was evacuated. Benson and Linda Urban, Red Cross shelter manager at Solomon/Plains, did not have problems with displaced residents leaving early and heading back to evacuated areas. “They’re just getting a little rambunctious,” Urban said. “For the most part people are pretty conscious about the dangers.” The three managers said no major disturbances occurred at the shelters through Friday afternoon. Benson said the GAR shelter had minor problems with children, as a few kids got lost inside the school. Stanton Lanes offered kids and their parents free bowling on Friday afternoon to distract the cooped-up children. “Kids will be kids. So what can you do,” Benson said. “We need parents to watch their kids. We’re not here to babysit. We can’t keep an eye on the kids, we have to run the shelter.”

WILKES-BARRE: Army veteran Nicholas B. Borowitz sips a coffee as people queue up to receive food at the GAR High School shelter location Thursday. KRISTEN MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

Rumor hotline volunteers set record straight By Andrew Staub Staff Writer WILKES-BARRE — Daniel Leco picked up the phone late Thursday night and heard another tall tale: Banko’s Seafood in West Nanticoke had collapsed amid the day’s flooding disaster. Though the story wasn’t true, Leco and four other volunteers manning the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency’s Rumor Control Hotline had already heard it seven times before 11 p.m. So went the life of those tasked with sorting fact from fiction as unfounded rumors of road closures, flood damage and levee breaches swirled faster than the rain-bloated Susquehanna River swelled. “Everything’s a rumor,” said Lucy Morgan, deputy director of the agency. “The Cross Valley is closed. The dam broke in New York and we’re all going to flood. The dam broke in Forty Fort.” All of that, of course, was false, and much of the responsibility of setting the record straight during an already dangerous time fell upon the shoulders of the Rumor Control Hotline. Tucked in a small room off the agency’s command center on Water Street, the team members monitored live television feeds, kept a watch on the river level projections and answered questions from panicked callers. Often the volunteers dispelled falsities such as the Banko’s Seafood story. Other times, they answered legitimate questions pertaining to whether power would be restored or where exact evacuation zones were located. And with many of them having backgrounds in counseling programs or other human services, the volunteers also calmly soothed breathless and frantic callers, including a pregnant woman who was having difficulty comprehending the need for an evacuation. Pennsylvania developed the concept of the Rumor Control Hotline decades ago to help provide accurate information about nuclear events, severe weather threats and highway problems such as the 50-mile tie-up on Interstate 78 in 2007, said Steve Bekanich, the county’s EMA coordinator. The hotline — 1-800-821-3716 — helps prevent normal emergency lines from being clogged with unnecessary questions

‘… I think there are still a lot of doubting Thomases that need to see to believe.’ LUCY MORGAN Deputy director of the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency and concerns, Bekanich said. Volunteers at the command center also logged as many rumors as they could, helping officials track trends and decide when they needed to publicly address misleading information. “We can say, ‘Listen, we’re hearing a multitude of the same rumor. We can assure you this isn’t occurring,’” Bekanich said. On Thursday, calls hit the hotline at a frenetic pace ranging from 30 to more than 100 calls an hour, said Kathy Dobash, one of the volunteers. “Sometimes, you get a call a minute,” she said. A frequent topic late Thursday included stories that the levee at Forty Fort had given way. In reality, a 200-foot section of the levee had to be fortified with 2,000 tons of rock when floodwaters soaked the ground. In another instance, someone called volunteer Lorraine Smith to say military personnel had denied a nurse entrance to the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. Smith consulted with the liaison from the Pennsylvania National Guard at the command center in hopes of rectifying the problem. Other calls made much less sense, given the situation. One man called Leco to ask if NBC would bump its broadcast of the NFL season opener for flood coverage. When Leco said he wasn’t sure, the caller asked if there was an NBC representative in the command center. “Not that I can find,” Leco responded. In most cases, accurate information helped alleviate rumors and calm residents, Morgan said. “But,” she said, “I think there are still a lot of doubting Thomases that need to see to believe.”’ To contact the hotline, call 1-800-821-3716. astaub@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2052


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

12 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP

No strangers to floods By Michael P. Buffer Staff Writer

PLYMOUTH TWP. — The unprecedented expansion of the Susquehanna River flooded more than 65 homes and 20 businesses in the West Nanticoke section of Plymouth Township, Deputy Fire Chief Barry Lore said Friday. About 2.5 square miles of the township were under water, Lore said. State police and fire department employees used boats to patrol West Nanticoke. About 275 people left their homes, but more than 50 stayed, Lore said. Some had boats floating outside their homes. “We are systematically checking on the people who refuse to leave,” Lore said. “We are taking water to some. Most are self-sustain-

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ASSESSMENT // COLOR-CODED DANGER

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THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

The Susquehanna River’s chocolate-colored waters continued to rage along its teeming banks Friday, but the cocktail of floodwater, gas and oil they left behind in bordering neighborhoods may be the bigger problem. “That’s not mine, that floated in here,” Dolores Zabrowski said, pointing to a five-gallon gas can bobbing atop the muck that swallowed her property at 605 Watt St., Duryea, from the dike along the Lackawanna River behind her house nearly to the sidewalk in the front. Like the rest of her neighbors along Watt Street down to Stephenson Street, up to about 6 feet of floodwater and whatever liquid it touched pooled in Zabrowski’s backyard when the Susquehanna backed up into the Lackawanna where the two rivers meet nearby late Friday. “It smells like oil,” she said. And it looked like oil, even where it had already receded. Never mind the backyard cesspools surfaced with crusts of pale-brown foam emanating the unmistakable odor of any number of petroleum-based liquids, the unctuous evidence was nowhere more obvious than on the surface of recently receded streets. When the Germania Hose Company’s pumping efforts revealed the 400 block of Watt Street, the psychedelic streaks of purple, turquoise, copper and green covered the asphalt in a slick sheen that looked more like the remnants of an oil spill than a flood. But another color running in the gutters from basementpumping systems may have been the more significant one — red. “I watched it just gushing out of the cellar windows,” said William Henning, chairman of the Mehoopany Township Board of Supervi-

sors, of the home-heating fuel pouring from an apartment building’s cellar that flooded Thursday. “The smell was overpowering” As in Duryea, uncountable gallons of the dyed-red fuel streamed into floodwaters when they swallowed cellars in Mehoopany, Henning said, and later as homeowners pumped out basements brimming with the mixture. “That home-heating fuel could soak into the wood in the walls, and it’s these little kids I’m worried about,” he said. Henning said his primary concer n with regard to home-heating fluid mixing into floodwaters are the 15 to 20 single- and multi-family homes — most of which he said are rented by young families — along a stretch of state Route 87 in Mehoopany. “It was in dead water right between two houses,” Henning said. Henning, who also serves as assistant chief of the F.W.M. Volunteer Fire Co. in Mehoopany, said the odors were so strong that one of his

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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

14 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // Widespread trouble

View: Tour reveals scope of damage

The Susquehanna River looking south toward Pittston on Friday. MICHAEL J. MULLEN / TIMES-SHAMROCK

FROM PAGE 3 A water-logged natural gas drilling well stood out amongst the lush greenery of the Endless Mountains. It was a good distance from the river, apparently a victim of a runaway creek. Just as everywhere else, the river swelled throughout Falls Township, but about the only thing it overwhelmed was forest. After clearing another of the river’s seemingly endless series of bends, the plane headed toward Harding and West Pittston. The two bridges heading into the latter were perilously close to the waves. Neighborhoods looked traversable by boat, while on the other side of the river, the city of Pittston kept relatively dry. From there, more municipalities resembling the canals of Venice. The Eighth Street Bridge in Wyoming was partially submerged, and in visible disrepair. The roof of the Redner’s Wa r e h o u s e M a rke t i n

Edwardsville was now a deck. And then, a respite from the damage, thanks to the gleaming white flood walls along the banks in WilkesBarre, holding on for dear life, despite a historic crest. Shickshinny was a despairing stew of wall-towall water, and it was there that the plane turned around and headed back to the airport. We had seen enough for one day. jmcauliffe@timesshamrock.com

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ASSESSMENT // ADDED DANGERS

Floodwaters plagued with vermin

By Patrice Wilding Staff Writer

Mold could cause health problems

By Erin L. Nissley Staff Writer

Floodwater may be receding, but the contaminants it carries and the mold it leaves behind can continue to cause problems in the coming days and weeks, experts said Friday. Around the region, 12 sewage treatment plants were affected by the floods, according to state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Katy Gresh. Chief among DEP’s concerns is raw sewage, microbes and chemicals from those facilities leaking into floodwater, she said. Floodwater, rivers and streams contaminated with raw sewage can carry a number of dangerous microor-

ganisms like E. coli and salmonella, said Kello gg Schwab, Ph.D., a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. Highly contagious norovirus, a type of stomach flu, can also be carried through sewage-tainted water, he said. The average healthy adult who comes into contact with contaminations will suffer a bout of gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting, Kellogg said. But when the elderly and the very young are exposed, “it could be very serious and possibly fatal,” Kellogg said. He recommended frequent hand washing and showering after coming into contact

with floodwater. Also possibly contaminating floodwater are toxins and chemicals from submerged industrial sites, according to state Department of Public Health officials. To avoid getting sick, people should stay out of floodwater, said infectious disease expert Stephen Pancoast, M.D. If you are exposed to floodwater, avoid ingesting water and shower as soon as possible, using soap and a clean water source, experts said. People with open wounds or scratches should cover the injury so it does not come into contact with floodwater to avoid infection, public health officials said.

refuse until roadways have been cleared. “Mice live 10 to 20 feet from their food source, though rats can be up to 50 feet away,” Baumann said, adding that “rodents that affect our houses are prolific breeders.” After mating, rats are born in a little over three weeks, with an average litter size of six, Baumann said. They reach adulthood and may begin mating themselves in four to six weeks. Skunks, rats and mice don’t hibernate, but do “den” in protected areas like decks and porches. The influx of wildlife also can

bring about problems with fleas, Baumann said. “Traditionally, September and (the beginning of) October is flea season in your area,” he explained. “Because these animals are moving around, flea eggs can fall off the animals (and be) dispersed throughout.” Fleas need a blood meal and just-hatched larvae wait for this until they continue to the next phase of maturation, Baumann said. Dogs, cats or even people walking by are vulnerable to becoming hosts. Ticks are also a concern, Baumann said.

“It’s important to think about ticks because it’s still growing season. A lot of grass grows up real fast once the sun comes out, providing a nice place to hide for ticks, so

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falls that produce standing water, you will get more mosquitoes produced. I think that’s pretty much guaranteed,” Nasci said. Female mosquitoes take a blood meal, digest it, and use the proteins to make eggs, Nasci explained. The females are able to detect flood plains, and lay their eggs in those places. The eggs remain dormant in the soil for long periods of time — possibly years — until it floods, and the embryos hatch. More mosquitoes doesn’t always mean more disease, Nasci said. “There’s about 150 different species (of mosquitoes) in the United States, and each one is ecologically different. Only a handful are potential disease vectors,” Nasci said. “West Nile (virus) season is winding down. Outbreaks that occur are pretty sporadic, and so far in Pennsylvania, we’ve only had one West Nile reported this year. Activity is pretty low, so general risk is low.” pwilding@timesshamrock.com

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Carpenter ants building nests in decaying wood. Rats, raccoons, skunks and snakes scrounging for food and seeking shelter. Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes seeking a blood meal and a moist place to lay eggs. As weary evacuees pine to return to their homes, experts on pests and animal populations warn that people are not the only creatures displaced by floods. “(Flooding) has created a couple things — standing water and saturated ground. We as humans are totally disrupted by all this. The animal world is in the same boat,” explained Greg Baumann, director of technical services for Orkin Pest Control in Atlanta, Ga. “Vertebrates like rodents, skunks, and wildlife, their living spaces may have been flooded and their food sources may have been eliminated. Trash cans are spilled over, and any time we provide additional food, water, and places for them to live, it’s going to increase the activity for these animals,” Baumann said. “Maybe their dens are underwater temporarily, and they’re looking for additional places to live.” Baumann advised residents to keep garages closed and ensure trash is kept in tightly covered containers, especially since some municipalities may be unable to pick up

keep grass trimmed,” he said. “Many things can happen, (since) just by the sheer population you increase chances of disease transmission,” Baumann said. “If one out of 1,000 ticks carry Lyme disease, and in an area where you usually have, say, 1,000, you now have 4,000, the chances are greater.” Flies also thrive in a postflood environment, Baumann said. “Some flies are going to feed on rodents who have drowned or been displaced,” he said. “Flies will lay eggs right on the decaying animal. Soggy wood creates the threat of carpenter ants until first frost.” And then there are the mosquitoes. Roger Nasci, chief of the arboviral diseases branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, agreed that the potential for increased mosquito populations is greater following flooding. “In a situation during the late summer season when you have flooding or heavy rain-


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

18 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // BACK MOUNTAIN

HARVEYS LAKE: Boats at the Grotto area at the entrance to the lake Thursday.

HARVEYS LAKE: A sliding board from a dock at Warden Place is inundated with lake water Thursday. MARK MORAN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

FLOODING CANCELLATIONS AND POSTPONEMENTS THE ITALIAN AMERICAN ASSOCIATION canceled its Septem-

ber dinner meeting. The association’s next scheduled event is the Person of the Year banquet on Oct. 9.

THE SEPT. 11 REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY, which was

scheduled at Luzerne County Community College for Sunday, has been canceled.

MARK MORAN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

JOE NARDONE’S DOO WOP VOLUME 3 CONCERT at the F.M.

Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre is postponed to Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. The show was originally scheduled for Saturday. All tickets will be honored for the new date. Call 829-3603 for more information.

THE LITTLE THEATRE OF WILKES-BARRE canceled performances of “Into the Woods” on Saturday and Sunday. The show will run Sept. 16-17 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18. Call 823-1875 for reservations.

THE POSTAL SERVICE will attempt delivery and collections in

Central Pennsylvania unless roads are impassable or the area is under evacuation. Customers should contact local retail offices for additional information. Stamps and shipping labels can be purchased online at usps.com. Customers can also request free package pickup online, and the Postal Service will pick up packages during regular mail delivery the next business day. Stamps can also be purchased by calling SEE UPDATES, PAGE 19

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ASSESSMENT // WILKES-BARRE

WILKES-BARRE: Evacuees Kim R. and her daughter Arianna J., 5, rest on their cot at the G.A.R. High School shelter location.

WILKES-BARRE: A worker pumps out the Water Street parkade near the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre on Thursday.

KRISTEN MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

UPDATES, FROM PAGE 18 1-800-782-6724, at banking ATMs and in retail outlets. Visit www.uspseverywhere. com to find the nearest location.

GEISINGER NORTHEAST CLINIC HOURS: clinics

Kingston and Kistler are closed today and will open at regularly scheduled hours on Monday. Lake Scranton is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. Mount Pocono is open today from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nicholson is open from

8 a.m. to noon. Tunkhannock is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Careworks Convenient Healthcare retail clinics located in Weis Markets in Clarks Summit, Stroudsburg, Tannersville, Schnecksville and Allentown are open. View hours of operation at www.mycareworks.com. The after-hours clinic at Geisinger Dallas is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and Sunday.

GEISINGER CENTRAL CLINIC HOURS: Berwick is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Kulpmont, Lewisburg,

Lycoming and Selinsgrove from 8 a.m. to noon; Knapper Clinic family practice is open 8 a.m. to noon, pediatrics from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and outpatient pharmacy from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; The Susquehanna University clinic is open with pediatric urgent care services available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

WEGMAN’S FOOD MARKETS INC. DONATED A TRUCKLOAD OF NON-PERISHABLE FOOD to the Northeast

KRISTEN MULLEN / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

delivery includes canned tuna, peanut butter and jelly, canned vegetables, soups, cereal, and plastic cups, plates, and cutlery. The Wegman’s Family Charitable Foundation also donated $150,000 to the American Red Cross Wyoming Valley Chapter.

ST. PAUL’S EVANGELICAL

LUTHERAN CHURCH OF MOUNTAIN TOP is open as

a shelter. The church is also assembling cleaning kits for flood victims. Donations of buckets, sponges, wash cloths, towels, scrub brushes, and cleaning solutions will be accepted.

THE 180TH ANNIVERSARY

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Pocono Downs in Plains Township, originally scheduled for Saturday, is postponed to Dec. 3. The event honors the anniversary of founding of the Sisters of Mercy and the 10th SEE UPDATES, PAGE 21

Regional Weinberg Food Bank in Wilkes-Barre. The

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

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ASSESSMENT // PLAINS TOWNSHIP

PLAINS TOWNSHIP: Harry Thomas, of Plainsville, steadies a pontoon boat on Courtright Street in Plains as flood waters rose Thursday.

PLAINS TOWNSHIP: A pontoon boat makes its way to Courtright Street launch.

DAVE SCHERBENCO / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

UPDATES, FROM PAGE 19 anniversary of Misericordia University’s Women with Children Program.

THE FOLLOWING RITE AID PHARMACIES are closed

due to mandatory evacuations: 155 E. Northampton St. and 33 Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, 22 West Side Mall in Edwardsville and 5 E. Main St., Nanticoke. Patients can obtain prescriptions at other store locations because the company’s satellite-linked computer network maintains a complete customer prescription history. Call customer service at 1-800-748-3243 to find the closest open Rite Aid store.

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flood). Catholics who are able to safely attend Mass at other churches are encouraged to do so. A directory of churches and Mass times is available on the Diocese of Scranton website at www. dioceseofscranton.org. See “Find a Parish and Mass Times,” which provides a list

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THE MANDATORY EVACUATION ORDER AFFECTING THOUSANDS OF WYOMING VALLEY RESIDENTS INCLUDES MANY DIOCESAN PRIESTS AND PARISHIONERS who have been forced

order to seek safety and shelter elsewhere. State, county and city officials have implored citizens residing in the affected areas to adhere to the mandatory evacuation order. Recognizing that some churches in the Scranton Diocese remain under mandatory evacuation, the opportunity for regularly scheduled Masses to be celebrated

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

THE BLOOMSBURG THEATRE ENSEMBLE POSTPONED PERFORMANCES OF “THE GUYS” to Sept. 15-18.

boxoffice@bte.org with questions.

DAVE SCHERBENCO / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

22 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // AROUND THE REGION

BLOOMSBURG: Airplanes sit on the west of the runway at the Bloomsburg Airport, in Bloomsburg as flood water from the Susquehanna River covers the airport Thursday afternoon.

AP PHOTO / BLOOMSBURG PRESS ENTERPRISE, JIMMY MAY

THE MUNICIPALITY OF KINGSTON

business owners are urged to stay out of the community until the evacuation order is lifted. All emergency calls are to be directed to 9-11. All non-emergency calls are to be directed to 288-3674. Anyone needing assistance with evacuating should call 287-0770 or 2870913.

announced there will be no garbage collection, recycling or yard waste pickup in the Municipality of Kingston until futher notice. The Kingston Municipal Building and Recreation Center will be closed until the mandatory evacuation is lifted. All residents and

TUNKHANNOCK: Flood water surrounds the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock Thursday. MICHAEL J. MULLEN / TIMES-SHAMROCK

How to submit updates Send flood related updates to citydesk@citizensvoice. com or community@citizensvoice. com. Updates will continue to be published throughout and following this flood emergency. Call 821-2056 for information.

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ASSESSMENT // DURYEA

DURYEA: Two men walk on the levee in Duryea just behind a home on Chittenden Street Friday. WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

DURYEA: Entrance to the Holy Rosary School on Stephenson Street, Duryea. The school and church had flooded basements. WARREN RUDA / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

DURYEA: Mark on this Lackawanna Avenue home shows where the flood waters from the Lackawanna River crested Friday.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 – 27

DURYEA: Residents of Main Street along with guardsmen look at a vehicle stranded in flood waters early Friday.

DURYEA: Home on Watt Street is reflected in the flood waters from the Lackawanna River Friday morning.

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

DURYEA: Flooded Holy Rosary Cemetery on Chittenden Street.


Sept. 8, 2011: An overwhelming sense of ‘here we go again’ By Borys Krawczeniuk Staff Writer Deja vu fails to describe driving out of WilkesBarre with my father early Thursday afternoon. Deja dread is more like it. An overwhelming feeling of “here we go again.” Complete and utter disbelief. Again, it rains buckets in Binghamton, N.Y. Ag ain, all that rain winds up in Wilkes-Barre and the Susquehanna River collects all that water and rises, sucking the breath out of the Wyoming Valley. Again. On June 23, 1972, I was 11 years old, two weeks after finishing sixth grade at Franklin Street Elementary School with three months of summertime and no school ahead. Trouble was, all this rain kept falling. It poured for a week leading up to June 23, a date thousands of Wyoming Valley residents remember annually like their birthdays. The day of Hurricane Agnes, by then just a tropical storm, a windless but rainy horror. To this day, if I see someone famous was born on that day or something significant happened on that day in some other place or some other year, I think, “That’s the day of the flood.” A neighbor knocked on our door around dawn and told my parents that civil defense officials had ordered everyone to leave because the Susquehanna River was likely to overflow its levee. For this 11-year-old, this was all quite strange. When I was 11, our parents did their best to shield us from the world. As Ukrainian young refugees of World War II, they had survived some of

the worst the world offered and I think they preferred we grew up far more normally. I knew about the Vietnam War because it was always on television, but that was far away, and I always worried our house wo u l d b e bu r g l a r i z e d because the newspaper always had a story about someone’s home being burglarized, but the parents did their best to shield us from other vagaries of life. Until the neighbor knocked on our door to warn us, I don’t remember hearing anything about a flood, but my parents could do nothing about it. They could only flee the way they did almost 30 years earlier. We took clothing, but

left most everything else behind. No one imagined what Agnes had in mind. We drove up Blackman Street in my dad’s navy blue 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air in bumper-to-bumper traffic toward Route 309 south, up to Mountain Top and the home of a family friend who would house us for weeks. In the ensuing months, after more than 10 feet of water on our first floor, we learned first hand what all the people in the floods I covered later as a reporter learn when their homes are flooded. No need to relive the suffering, struggle and emotional pain here. Suffice to say, I sympat h i z e d e e p ly w i t h a l l whose lives have suddenly

been ripped apart, even though I live in Scranton far away from any flood plain. Dad, Joseph Krawczeniuk, was 47 years old that morning we headed for Mountain Top, and 86 as I drove up Blackman Street with him on Thursday morning. Again. This time, I was behind the wheel, just the two of us because mom died almost four years ago, two brothers live elsewhere and the other was evacuating his own family. I spent about four hours Thursday morning hauling all the belongings I could lift by myself to dad’s second floor. As I removed all the family photos from the walls downstairs, my dad

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A view of Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, during the Agnes flood in 1972. THE CITIZENS’ VOICE FILE

house — and I wasn’t taking any chances. B e f o r e we l e f t , d a d looked around and said it would take a lot of work to put back all the stuff I took upstairs. “I hope so,” I responded. “I hope so.”

looked at me and said, in Ukrainian, “You think the water will get that high?” It got way higher than that in 1972 — more than 15 feet of water filled the first floor and lapped a couple of feet below the second in our three-story EARLY

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32 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // A PERSPECTIVE

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ASSESSMENT // SHICKSHINNY SOUTH TO BLOOMSBURG

SHICKSHINNY: Three kayakers paddle in their boats on flood water from the Susquehanna River which covers the parking lot of the 5 Mountain Market Thursday afternoon. AP PHOTO / BLOOMSBURG PRESS ENTERPRISE, JIMMY MAY

HARRY J. DEITZ / FOR THE NEWS-ITEM

AP PHOTO / BLOOMSBURG PRESS ENTERPRISE, JIMMY MAY

HARRY J. DEITZ / FOR THE NEWS-ITEM

AP PHOTO / BLOOMSBURG PRESS ENTERPRISE, JIMMY MAY

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 – 33

BLOOMSBURG: Colored benches from the Bloomsburg Fairground sit in a pile against a fence as flood water from Fishing Creek moves across the fairground Thursday.

ELYSBURG: The creek familiar to many amusement park patrons exceeds its banks and inundates Knoebels Amusement Resort.

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ELYSBURG: Jack Semerod, an employee of Knoebels Amusement Resort, checks out high water by the birthday pavilion Thursday.

BLOOMSBURG: From the top of the image, the second and the sixth home in the 900 block of West Main Street in Bloomsburg have been moved off their foundations by flood water from Fishing Creek Thursday.


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2011

36 – THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

ASSESSMENT // FEMA ADVICE; WEST PITTSTON, SHICKSHINNY FACE CLEANUP

Flood insurance shows its benefits

By Borys Krawczeniuk Staff Writer

President Obama’s declaration Friday of an emergency in six local counties is the first in a series of steps before flooded regions can get federal aid, but many flood victims don’t have to wait that long to get things rolling. Victims covered by federal flood insurance can file a damage claim as soon as emergency management officials allow them back into their homes and they can assess their damage. “You don’t have to wait” for the president to do anything else to file a claim, said Theodore B. Wampole Jr., a lead sales representative for Liberty Mutual in WilkesBarre. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, advises flood insurance policyholders to contact their insurance agents about filing

claims, though Wampole said they can also call a toll-free FEMA number. The national flood insurance call center’s toll-free number is 1-800-427-4661, according to FEMA’s website. “An adjuster will be in touch with you as soon as possible and will work with you to calculate the value of the damage and prepare a repair estimate,” a FEMA brochure says. Flood insurance typically covers a home and its contents. Basement damage is only covered if it involves a washer, dryer, heating furnace or water boiler or refrigerator, Wampole said. For flood victims without flood insurance, federal help could still be available. FEMA might cover damage to a primary residence if it entails making ”the damaged home safe, sanitary and functional,” according to a FEMA document. But FEMA aid does not

happen unless the president declares a disaster. Obama’s declaration Friday of an emergency was not the same as a disaster declaration. The emergency declaration allows FEMA to provide help for measures that alleviate widespread emergencies — typically anything meant to save live, protect property, public health and safety and to avert catastrophes. It addresses immediate dangers and could include reimbursement for police protection, bottled water or other commodities for shelters, generators. The emergency declaration covers Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties and 36 other counties. Beyond that, there is longterm help of two general categories — assistance for individuals and assistance for governments that need to repair roads, bridges and

other infrastructure. Getting that aid requires damage assessments and a presidential disaster declaration. That is done by teams of federal, state and local damage inspectors. Usually, one team assesses home and business damage and another focuses on damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure. For homeowners and business owners to be eligible, “FEMA typically requires a very large number of homes (or businesses) to have suffered major damage or to have been destroyed,” said Cory Angell, a Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesman. There is no threshold number for individual damage that an individual or region must meet to obtain a presidential disaster declaration, though major dama g e is g enerally a requirement, said Nicholas Morici, an external affairs

officer for FEMA. “We look at, more or less, the humanistic side of it, too,” he said. If a disaster is declared FEMA can provide up to about $30,000 per household to pay for home repairs, temporary housing, cleanups and generally anything that makes a home suitable again, Morici said. “Nobody’s going to get a 40-inch Sony,” he said. He suggest homeowners document “all their damages to the ‘T’,” including taking photos, he said. FEMA will typically set up a central disaster recover center in an affected region once the declaration happens. For damage to roads and bridges, states and counties have specific damage threshold guidelines to meet to warrant federal aid to fix roads and bridges, Angell said. Pennsylvania’s threshold is $16.5 million, a threshold

almost undoubtedly exceeded in this flood across the 42 counties, Angell said. The threshold for Luzerne County is $1,049,402, Lackawanna, $701,209, Susquehanna, $141,774, Wyoming, $92,463, Monroe, $555,383, and Bradford, $204,774. Angell cautioned the thresholds are only guidelines and falling short does not necessarily mean it will not be eligible for aid. How long it takes to get a disaster declaration varies, though most serious disasters take days to a week. Often, the wait depends partly on how quickly officials collect damage estimates. Sometimes, road damage limits restricts the ability to conduct assessments. “I’ve seen them take weeks, I’ve seen them take days, I’ve seen them take hours,” Morici said. “We’re asking people to be patient.” bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com

Shickshinny: Police department under water; records may not be OK

West Pittston: Friends help business owner

FROM PAGE 7 CVS pharmacy. Residents like elderly Nancy Luczak are worried the businesses might not come back. “We’ll be screwed if the stores leave here,” she said. “Especially the people who don’t have cars.” The floodwater forced its way up West Union Street, filling the firehouse and municipal building with more than 4 feet of water. Both were built after Agnes and constructed to meet 100year-flood standards, Morris said. “We lost a lot of stuff,” he said. But the historical records were “high and dry,” he said. “You can’t replace minutes from 1920.” T h e f i re t r u ck s we re removed before the flood. The computers were safe, too, when firefighters donned wet suits and braved chest-deep water to check, Morris said. But municipal records won’t be OK, and the police department is under water, borough council President

live there, she said. Her house was built to withstand water a foot above the Agnes level. It’s more bad publicity for Shickshinny, Moore fears. “I love this town. I do. I didn’t expect this,” she said. Most people whose homes were not flooded or had minimal flooding kept their power, but in neighboring Mocanaqua, debris hit a power line at 11:15 a.m. Friday and disrupted service to about 800 customers. “UGI is currently assessing the damage and establishing a timeframe for restoration,” according to a news release.

FROM PAGE 7 Around town in areas where the water subsided, people were busy powerwashing and shoveling mud. T he streets were lined with damaged furniture and carpets. People dumped spoiled food in the garbage outside. On Exeter Avenue, Jeff Holtz said half the inventory of his landmark hardware store, Old Mill Pine, was hit by floor waters that filled 3 feet of his store. Holltz is also a dealer of Stihl products, such as c h a i n s aw s a n d o t h e r equipment. A host of more than 20 friends helped him get his high-priced products to higher ground. Then, they retur ned Friday to help him clean. “They just came,” Holtz said, with tears coming d ow n h i s f a c e. “ I g e t choked up now thinking about it.”

eskrapits@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2072

bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2055

Rosalie Whitebread said. Since the fire hall, the usual flood refuge, was flooded, Kathie and Sherm Fink offered the use of their Union Street house as a community center. The porch and front yard hummed with activity: a pot of chili being heated on a grill for lunch, Mayor Beverly Moore ordering portable toilets for the town, children helping themselves to drinks from an icefilled kiddie pool and snacks from a well-stocked table, arrangements being made for sump pumps for flooded basements. “We’re only being neighborly,” Kathie Fink said as she put together a box of food for the National Guardsmen stationed at Route 239. Whitebread fervently thanked the residents who stepped up to donate everything from food to paper plates. “God bless our people in this town,” she said. Residents who didn’t have anywhere else to go could

stay at Northwest Area High School or the Shickshinny United Methodist Church. Some stayed put anyway, like George and Gloria Davis, despite 4 feet of water in their basement, according to their daughter Stacy Cresci. “My dad was afraid to leave,” she said. “He said people were going to loot the house.” Cresci believes the extensive flooding in Shickshinny could have been prevented if the river had been dredged after the levee system upstream at Wilkes-Barre was put in. “It’s not fair how they protect certain areas and let other areas go,” she said. “We have rights. We pay taxes.” Morris is angered that no county or state officials have come to see Shickshinny — and they need to see it, he says. “I think that’s what upsets me the most,” Morris said. “We get hit hard, and they know it.” A lot of residents share the

SHICKSHINNY: Floodwaters completely engulf houses on Susquehanna Avenue, McClintock Street and Canal Street. ELIZABETH SKRAPITS / THE CITIZENS’ VOICE

feelings of Natalie Fink, who doesn’t want to move even though she was flooded out of the Shickshinny high rise. “This is my town. I’m not leaving,” she said. “I’m going to be 90 years old and still living in this town.” Moore, whose Canal Street home was flooded through the first floor and her garage washed away, fought back tears as she described how she lost all her Halloween decorations — and that’s her favorite holiday. She cannot get to her house to see what’s left because the river’s current is too strong. It’s not about the repeat flooding — disasters happen everywhere, and she chose to


The Citizens' Voice - Sept. 10, 2011