Damage totals from Irene

BY DAVID SINGLETON, Times-Shamrock Writer

It could almost be called the forgotten disaster, especially among people who were not directly affected.

Less than two weeks before flooding along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries spawned by Tropical Storm Lee slashed a trail of destruction and misery across Northeast Pennsylvania, Hurricane Irene pummeled the region with heavy rain and high wind.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were left without electricity, many for days on end, after falling trees snapped power lines and blocked roads. InWyomingCounty, flash flooding uprooted some houses and damaged others.

Almost a month later, the toll from the Aug. 27-28 storm is still being tallied, even as public attention has been riveted on the broader devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Lee.

“Irene did sort of fade to some degree because it was old news,” Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Eugene Brezany said Thursday.

Five area counties are now under Irene-related federal disaster declarations of one type or another, joining six others in easternPennsylvania.

Luzerne andWyomingcounties have been approved for both individual assistance, intended to help families and businesses overcome losses caused by Irene, and public assistance, which aids local governments and certain nonprofits with expenses such as debris removal and repair or replacement of damaged public facilities.

Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike counties have been approved for public assistance only, andMonroeCountyfor individual assistance only.

Through Wednesday, 6,520 individuals and businesses that had damage from Irene had applied to FEMA for assistance, with 1,667 applications approved for a total of $4.5 million in aid. All of those numbers are expected to rise.

InSusquehannaCounty, assistance-eligible expenses from Irene stand at around $740,000, said Scott Aylesworth, emergency management operations and training manager.

PikeCounty’s coordinator, Roger Maltby, said his county had Irene-related expenses for debris cleanup. He said discerning where one disaster ended and the other began is next to impossible.

“What I’m saying is if it wasn’t fixed – and it wasn’t – Lee just made the damages worse,” he said. “Where are you going to say this was done by Irene and that was done by Lee? It’s all a blur.”

FEMA is encouraging anyone who had damage from Irene, Lee or both to register for assistance.