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Flooding ravages parts of York County

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What breaks your heart?

Mine was torn Wednesday observing flood damage that had ravaged Kreutz Creek Road and River Drive in Hellam Township.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf toured the area with PEMA Executive Director Rick Flinn and county commissioners, people from PennDOT, state Rep. Keith Gillespie, volunteers from Wrightsville Fire & Rescue Company 41 and Hellam Fire Company along with Hellam officials, county emergency management planners and responders to assess the damage from Aug. 31, where almost a foot of rain pummeled pockets of York County in just a few hours.

Beyond belief is how the governor described what he saw.

There was a bridge missing. A house stripped of its foundation. Chunks of pavement and debris were strewn about the roadway overlooking the Susquehanna River. That road was a way to get to work or reach the Accomac Inn. It is now reduced to a safety hazard.

What if an ambulance needs to get to these people? How would emergency responders reach them?

I spoke with a Wrightsville Fire & Rescue volunteer, Rich Reaver, known as Tank. He described the perilous conditions he and his crew faced Friday afternoon and into the night. It was about a quarter-to-three when his unit was dispatched to Kreutz Creek Road. Responders would be there past nightfall, having to overcome being stranded and nearly incapable of reaching residents.

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Listening to Tank, I relived my Friday night working at the county's Emergency Operations Center until almost midnight. I spoke live on three TV stations, urging residents to stay away from Route 30 and Pa. 462. Stay alert, I relayed to viewers, and be careful. Download FEMA's mobile app for timely weather alerts. Stay tuned to your news outlets. All I could do was offer advice and speak about the conditions as I knew of them.

Volunteers, fearless men and women, from Wrightsville and so many areas covering Hellam Township, Hopewell and East Hopewell townships, Chanceford and Lower Chanceford townships and Fawn Township, Glen Rock and Shrewsbury and elsewhere were not staying put. They could not. Their duties require them to fly in the face of being careful.

Need help cleaing up your property after the floods? Call 2-1-1 for Crisis Cleanup services.

I thanked Tank and took a much different appreciation for my work Friday evening.

The EOC, as I've been telling journalists, friends and family members, serves to coordinate resources for the responders. Firefighters, policeman and EMTs cannot stop to make a phone call and request a plow truck to clear a roadway. They're busy saving lives. The emergency management coordinators, which every municipality in the county is legally required to have, are in the field, communicating responders' needs to the EOC. We are able to track what's happening, where it's happening and establish the needs of a firefighter, police officer and even entire populations of people.

We called townships and boroughs unaffected by the storms.

"Do you have equipment to send to Fawn Township? There's a flooded road down there. Mud, brush and branches are clogging its drainage. We need a plow or a backhoe."

Think about it, though. Who has plows on their trucks on Labor Day weekend? And what municipal office is answering its phone at 8 p.m. on the Friday of a holiday weekend?

Our Parks & Recreation director, Tammy Klunk, stood at the ready to deploy equipment from John Rudy Park in East Manchester Township, 25 miles south to practically the Maryland border. Until the City of York called back. While parks had the equipment, it would take too long to prepare.

At the ring of a phone and the buzzing of some texts, the city's public works director sent six of his employees to Fawn Township with the weight of three plow trucks.

What breaks my heart? Knowing that people like Tank are risking their lives to save people. But that's not all. People are desperate. Some ultimately lose their homes, their livelihoods. 

It's amazing no one died in this flooding, I told him. And no one got hurt that I know of, he said.

What breaks your heart?

-- Mark Walters, public information officer for York County

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