Assessing damage, need

The U.S. Small Business Administration, a federal agency, sent a loss verifier to York County. Gary Michlin, who works for the SBA's Office of Disaster Assistance, toured parts of Hellam, Chanceford, Lower Chanceford and Fawn townships Thursday and Friday.

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He looked at properties decimated by the horrible flash flooding Aug. 31, when almost 10 inches of rain pounded pockets of the county in about four hours. He saw uprooted trees, chunks of asphalt and pieces of guardrails strewn along roadsides. He saw debris and household items that had gone miles downstream.

It would be nearly impossible to determine where most of the stuff came from or where it had gone when furniture, appliances, belongings and entire houses drifted away. 

Michlin, who was precise and succinct in his approach, was clear that his assessment did not guarantee any federal assistance. It's merely a step in the application process.

Should Small Business Administration assistance come through, it would likely be in the form of low-interest loans with favorable conditions. But it's entirely preliminary at this point. Nothing is guaranteed.

The assistance would likely be helpful for homeowners. Along with Michlin, York County Office of Emergency Management and PEMA officials saw more than 25 damaged properties.

One home, a modular unit, was on top of a hill. How the water ripped through the underside of it, damaging and washing out its foundation, is beyond belief. The home next door simply took in a few dozen gallons of water in its basement.

While the SBA looks for damage and impact with a specific formula for what qualifies for assistance, what I observed on the two-day excusrion was resilience. I saw Dale and Rose Thompkins, who were seen fortifying, albeit rebuilding, the concrete bridge that connects their driveway to Laurel Road in Chanceford Township.

People down here are self-sufficient, explained Ronnie Witmer, Chanceford Township's emergency management coordinator. They know how long it takes for things to get done, so they get to work, he said.

At the Ma & Pa Railroad, volunteers and associates are preparing for this weekend's Railroad Heritage Day festival. They've created a posterboard with pictures of the damage, a makeshift diagram establishing where they are going with repairs and where they have been.

In neighboring Fawn Township, at the confluence of Muddy Creek and its north and south branches, a homeownwer stood in his front yard. Tire tracks broke up the surface of the mud that was glazed over his yard. It represented what had struck three weeks ago. His home took in 18 inches of water, he said. But it also showed progress. Work had been done. But there's still more to do.

"We're just getting things back to normal," the man said. "Won't be long."

-- Mark Walters, public information officer for York County

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