The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

September 4, 2012

Milton area restaurateur looks back on flood of 2011

MILTON — Patty Hackenberg, owner of the Arrowhead Restaurant, is used to floods. In 2011, there were four floods, and she had to close her business down for high water twice.

“But last September, now that was something, wasn’t it?” she asked Monday.

An August hurricane followed by a tropical storm in September combined to help bring record-breaking rainfall to Pennsylvania — 18.14 inches in the span of a month.

The flooding in Pennsylvania was the most devastating since Tropical Storm Agnes in June 1972. From Sept. 4-9, the storm dropped up to 11 inches of rain in the Valley, mostly on Sept. 6-7 — including 10 inches in Selinsgrove and 15 inches in Pine Grove — and created the worst flooding from the Susquehanna River and its tributaries in 40 years.

“We had six feet of water in the restaurant, and I had to close down for seven weeks,” Hackenberg recalled. “Some businesses have their employees practice fire drills. Here, we have flood drills.”

If she sounds blase about flooding, she isn’t. “Just being practical,” Hackenberg said. “I’ve been a co-owner of the Arrowhead since 1992. Worked here since 1963, when I was 16 years old. Would we have less problems being at another location at a slightly higher elevation? Sure. But this restaurant means a lot to people around here. People tell me they had their first restaurant meal here. There are generations of kids, now adults coming here with their own kids. No, we’re not moving.”

Hackenberg said that every time they’re flooded out, she makes a point of improving something about the restaurant. “After the tropical storm, we built a structure on our roof where we house our heating and cooling units,” she said.

At Bucknell View, also along Route 405 but south of Milton, Louis Ramirez and his family live in a trailer, and they all remember the flood of 2011.

“We were pretty much stuck here until the water receded,” Ramirez said. “I hope I never see conditions this bad again.” He said he’s often considered moving away from the river, “but it’s so beautiful most of the time.”

Ramirez was lucky. Others weren’t.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid just under $5 million to Valley residents whose properties were damaged by Tropical Storm Lee flooding in mid-September 2011, but less than two-thirds of applications for assistance have been approved.

The disaster center at the CareerLink in Shamokin, the last of those in the Valley staffed with federal and state Emergency Management Agency officials to aid flood victims, closed Friday.

On Saturday, Josie Pritchard, a spokeswoman for FEMA, responded by email to questions about Phase 2 awards to homeowners who applied for assistance for structural damage caused by Irene and Lee.

“There is a lot of activity in Phase II,” she said, “but no financial awards have been approved yet.”

No FEMA awards have been granted for damage done by Hurricane Irene.

Tropical Storm Lee is a different story.

In Northumberland County, no awards have been made yet, but officials are waiting on title search clearance. In Snyder, Union and Montour counties, there were no Phase 1 applications, but Phase 2 applications are pending.

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