Hurricane Irene tore through central Pennsylvania on August 27, 2011 and was followed within weeks by Tropical Storm Lee. Though these fall storms were not the most damaging to ever hit the state, their “one-two punch” had devastating effects. These events resulted in two separate Presidential Disaster Declarations and opened the door to mitigation grants to build back stronger. Now, almost two years later, the area is still rebuilding, and communities and residents continue to need technical assistance and guidance throughout the process of applying for grants and rebuilding.
Recognizing this need, the Pennsylvania Silver Jackets team hosted non-structural mitigation workshops in three hard hit communities in central Pennsylvania on May 7-9. In each community, a three hour workshop was held for community officials and was followed by an evening session for residents and businesses.
A multi-agency group consisting of representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (PA DCED) paneled both sessions. Representatives from the three presenting agencies, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), and the Pennsylvania Association of Floodplain Managers (PAFPM) were available at informational booths after each evening session to provide further information and answer individual questions.
The workshops were structured in two parts. During the first part, members of the USACE National Non-structural Flood Proofing Committee (NFPC) provided descriptions and explanations of various non-structural flood proofing options. The information provided was general in nature and intended to provide community officials, residents, and businesses with some tools to help make their communities less prone to future flood damages.
The second part of the workshop provided a comprehensive overview of mitigation programs and funding that are administered by USACE, PEMA, and PA DCED to assist flood prone communities. It also covered the National Flood Insurance Program that is available directly to residents and businesses.
The workshops were an outreach success in that they generated good conversation on mitigation measures and requests for assistance on a way forward, and provided answers and agency contact information to participants.
The PA Silver Jackets team is considering more workshops within the state because of the high level of interest from the participants and other communities.