State and federal officials still assessing York County storm damage

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
York County spokesman Mark Walters talks to reporters outside the Office of Emergency Management on Thursday, Sept. 20. Walters accompanied representatives from the federal Small Business Administration and the Pennsylvania Emergency Response Agency to assess storm damage in Hellam and Chanceford townships.

State and federal officials were in York County this week to see for themselves the damage caused by the Aug. 31 storms.

Representatives from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the federal Small Business Administration toured parts of Hellam and Chanceford townships on Thursday, Sept. 20.

In a news conference Thursday at the York County Office of Emergency Management in Springettsbury Township, county spokesman Mark Walters said the group saw road signs, household appliances and other debris that had been carried miles by rushing water, as well as washed out bridges and devastated properties.

"I really get the sense that the people who this did not impact are not aware of the magnitude of it," Walters said. "I mean, when someone says this is the worst they've seen since Agnes in 1972, that's a long time."

The SBA was in York County in order to collect information that will be used to determine the area's eligibility for a federal disaster declaration.

More:Next week: FEMA to assess York County storm damage

More:York County asking residents to submit storm damage information

According to its website, the SBA provides low-interest disaster relief loans to private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters, in addition to businesses.

In order to be eligible for a loan, homeowners and business owners must be in an area where the federal government has declared an official disaster.

A federal disaster declaration must be in place in order for affected residents to apply for an SBA loan, Walters said.

If a resident were to qualify for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he or she would also be eligible to apply for a loan through the SBA, but being approved for FEMA assistance is not a prerequisite for receiving an SBA loan, Walters said.

Public and municipal damage in York County, including roads and other infrastructure, is currently at about $20 million, Walters said. Individual property damage is reported to the county based on a severity scale, rather than a monetary scale, so the county can't measure individual damage with a dollar figure, he said.

Walters said there was an elderly couple on Laurel Road in Chanceford Township who appeared to have independently paid a contractor to begin rebuilding a washed-out bridge near their home.

"It was pretty inspiring to watch a 70-year-old man standing in fishing waders in wet cement as it's being compacted," Walters said. "Resiliency is definitely alive and well in York County." 

Walters said it's too early to know how long it will take for the federal government to make a decision about the disaster declaration, and if a disaster is declared, how long it will be before homeowners and businesses can apply for aid.

PEMA will be back in York County on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 24 and 25, to assess more damage.

The aftermath of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina has delayed the federal response to Pennsylvania, Walters said, adding that government resources are thin.

Walters said it's not too late for residents to submit damage reports to the county. The submission form can be found here, or by visiting and navigating to the "Emergency Services" page.