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03/28/2019

Wolf Administration Outlines Spring Flooding Outlook, Shares Important Preparedness Information

​Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today reviewed the spring flooding outlook for Pennsylvania and shared steps Pennsylvanians can take today to prepare for flooding and keep loved ones safe.

“2018 was the wettest year on record for the state,” said state meteorologist Jeff Jumper. “We’re still seeing above-average precipitation so far for 2019, so even though the commonwealth is looking at a risk for minor river flooding this spring, we can’t let down our guard because localized flooding is still a very dangerous threat.”

PEMA Deputy Director for Preparedness Stephen Bekanich said that there are two significant roadblocks to recovery after flooding – flooding is commonly happening outside federally designated flood plains where people often don’t have flood insurance, and changing federal standards make it harder for the state to qualify for Individual Assistance from the federal government.

“In 2018, more than 5,200 homes sustained some level of damage during multiple weather-related events across the state,” Bekanich said. “But no single event met the threshold of 800 homes with major damage or destroyed. It leaves people in limbo during a recovery process that can take months or even years.”

Governor Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania proposal would benefit disaster survivors when damages do not meet federally established thresholds for federal aid. Restore Pennsylvania is a statewide plan to aggressively address the commonwealth's vital infrastructure needs. Funded through a commonsense severance tax, Restore Pennsylvania is the only plan that will help make Pennsylvania a leader in the 21st century.

Jumper said the following steps are a good start in getting ready for possible flooding:

  • Learn the difference between a weather watch and weather warning, since each requires different steps to stay safe:
    • A flood watch means that flooding may occur. Residents should stay alert, closely monitor rivers and streams, and be prepared to move to high ground quickly.
    • A flood warning means that there is actual flooding. Residents should act at once and move to high ground.
  • Sign up to get weather alerts from a trusted source on your cell phone;
  • Determine how you would leave your neighborhood if you needed to evacuate your home;
  • Identify where you would meet up with your family (both in your town and an out-of-town location) in the event you were separated when the flooding started;
  • Have important documents and essential supplies all in one place so they can be easily taken with you if you need to evacuate; and
  • Purchase flood insurance, even if you don’t live in a federally-designated flood zone.

“Standard homeowners’ insurance typically does not cover flood damage,” said Insurance Department Consumer Liaison David Buono. “Homeowners who live in federally designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are likely required to have flood insurance by their mortgage lenders, but we encourage all homeowners to consider this added protection.”

Buono noted the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the federal government run flood insurance, says 20 percent of its claims come from outside of SFHAs. Also, CoreLogic, a firm which provides property-based information to financial institutions, said in a fall 2018 survey that 515,000 properties in Pennsylvania outside of SFHAs are at moderate or high risk of flooding.

“Flood insurance is now available through both the NFIP and private insurers. The Insurance Department has a one-stop flood insurance web page where information on both the federal government insurance program, and private coverage, is available,” Buono said. “I encourage homeowners to visit this page, make some calls, and shop around for the best coverage deal for their particular property.”

Buono also recommended renters consider flood insurance to protect their possessions, which are typically not covered by either a standard renters’ insurance policy, or a landlord’s policy which covers the building.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs Ramez Ziadeh offered actions that individuals and communities can take to minimize the environmental impact of a flood event. DEP created a brochure, Guidelines for Maintaining Streams in Your Community, that offers actions to prevent flooding adjacent to streams. Additionally, DEP recommended investing in infrastructure projects that reduce surface runoff volume and control flooding.

“A flood can take place at any time, and the effects of climate change will continue to make storms more frequent and more intense, making flood preparation even more crucial. That’s why flood preparedness and prevention efforts are critical to have in place before a single rain drop falls,” said DEP Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs Ramez Ziadeh. “By informing residents and communities about taking preventive steps and by investing in our infrastructure, we will help prevent or reduce potentially devastating and costly damage to homes, businesses, transportation infrastructure, and our precious natural resources.”

“Floodwater can be toxic and dangerous, so we encourage people to avoid coming in contact with it,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Sewage and hazardous materials are often found in floodwater, which contaminates water sources and can lead to gastrointestinal illness. Sharp objects, such as glass and other damaged objects can also be found in the water, these can cause injuries and infections such as tetanus.”

A partnership between the five National Weather Service offices that service Pennsylvania, state agencies and private partners, Flood Safety Awareness Week in Pennsylvania is March 25 – 29.

MEDIA CONTACT: 

Ruth A. Miller (PEMA), 717-651-2009 or ruthmiller@pa.gov  
Ron Ruman (Insurance), 717-787-3289
Beth Rementer (DEP), 717-787-1323
Nate Wardle (Health), 717-787-1783 or ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

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