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July 12, 2013

Storm Aftermath: County declares disaster

NEW CASTLE — The Lawrence County commissioners have issued a declaration of disaster.

Chairman Dan Vogler said he and Commissioner Bob Del Signore Sr. signed the document yesterday morning.

“We don’t know if the commonwealth has yet issued a disaster declaration,” Vogler said. “We were hit hard but are not the only county affected by this serious event.”

The declaration states a tornado and severe thunderstorm with flash flooding with the potential to endanger the health, safety and welfare of individuals threatening injury, damage or suffering, hit the county.

Wednesday’s event required emergency management measures to reduce the severity of the disaster and protect residents.

The declaration directed the county emergency management coordinator to coordinate activities of emergency response, take appropriate actions to alleviate effects of the disaster and to aid and restore essential public services.

The advantage of issuing a declaration, Vogler said, is if the county is required to make purchases of equipment to deal with damages resulting from the storm, officials may bypass the normal bidding process to obtain necessary items quickly.

If the state issues a declaration, he continued, the county will be able to request state funds to assist with local issues.

Brian Melcer, Lawrence County public safety director, said he is performing a disaster assessment. This involves teams inspecting areas damaged by the weather, he explained.

“Overall, the tornado was the event that started it off.”

The tornado wiped out two barns and some out buildings in North Beaver Township.

The hardest-hit areas were the central and south-central parts of the county, which experienced flooding. That flooding affected roads and bridges in New Castle, Shenango and Slippery Rock townships and South New Castle Borough.

The report will determine if the county qualifies for disaster assistance, he said.

As of yesterday afternoon, disaster declarations had been filed by the county, New Castle, Shenango and North Beaver townships and New Beaver Borough.

Although two barns were destroyed, Melcer said, water caused the most serious damage through basement flooding.

He said anyone who has sustained a loss — whether a flooded basement, damage to a business or a municipality’s washed out road or bridge — should contact his office at (724) 658-7485.

An automated answering system will direct the caller.

“We will collect the data and a team will come out to do an assessment,” he said. “Then we will send the report to Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.”

Melcer said the first responders did well.

“We received the severe thunderstorm warning, but got no tornado warning,” he said. “Still, everyone turned out and kept up. Everyone did as they were trained to do.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

 

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