WESB/WBRR News Director
The Pennsylvania National Guard's Black Hawk helicopter today took Governor Tom Corbett, House Speaker Sam Smith and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati over areas damaged by Thursday’s flooding.
Those areas included Jefferson County, where Scarnati and Smith both live, as well as Clearfield and Clinton counties.
During a news conference in DuBois, one of the hardest hit places, Corbett said the three state leaders had a chance to see some of the damage close up.
“Obviously it doesn’t look the same after the fact, when the waters have receded,” Corbett said, adding that he and everyone else was watching the skies, hoping they didn’t see a repeat.
Rumbles of thunder could be heard during the news conference and a flood advisory is in effect for that area until 10:30 tonight.
Corbett said the state would do everything possible to help the areas get federal aid. Glenn Cannon, head of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said the first thing that has to be done is collecting damage reports to see if the region qualifies for federal aid.
Cannon, as well as Corbett, praised first responders – in particular the swift water rescue teams, some of whom came from other parts of the state – for their hard work and dedication.
“I’m amazed at what they’re able to do, Corbett said. "We would not be able to do anything the way we do it without the first responders, so thank you.”
“This storm really beat us up last night,” Cannon said. “Most of the state’s first responders were out. … I think it’s a real credit to our first responders that we’ve had only one fatality because there were numerous rescues. Rescues of folks off the top of cars and rescues of folks who were on the edge of stream banks that became raging rivers. Our swift water rescue teams did an outstanding job.”
The fatality was in Clinton County. An 86-year-old man was swept away by flood waters while trying to save his ATV.
Scarnati talked about how important DuBois is to the region.
"The city is really the epicenter for retail and business for this entire area, he said, adding that he realizes other areas need help, too, but "you’ve got the state PEMA director, the Speaker of the House, the president of the Senate and the governor here (in DuBois) to hear what your questions are and what we can help with.”
He also said Corbett did not hesitate when asked to survey the damage.
Smith mentioned State Rep. Matt Gabler, whose district includes DuBois.
“I’m sure he’d have liked to hitch a ride, too, but you can only haul so many people,” Smith said.
“I commend the governor for making this a priority for the people of this area,” Smith added. “We want everyone in the region to recognize that we’re concerned, and willing and ready to do whatever it is that we can possibly do.”