Multi-agency resource center set up for flood victims
"I had to be airlifted out of the house by helicopter," recalled Patricia Petersen.
Her house is in Stillwater, Columbia County.
She said this week, it turned into an island.
"I've lived there 15 years, probably been through a dozen floods... but this was the worst. This was the biggest adventure of them all," she said.
Patricia watched her home get swallowed by Fishing Creek's flood waters, ruining countless belongings, and destroying her house.
"The foundation is gone. The helicopter ripped the roof off, and I was there today with my son, taking pictures on how we're going to get my car out of there, which is totaled, too. And black mold is already on the ceilings, fuzzy white mold is already on the carpet in my family room," she said.
The devastation brought here to Benton Area High School, where Columbia County EMA has set up a multi-agency response center, including representatives from FEMA, PEMA, DEP, Columbia Co. Farm Bureau, Agape, Red Cross, Tri-County COG IBC Inspection Service, PA Insurance Department, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
"It's a one-stop shop for people who've gone through disasters such as the flooding we just went through, where they can come and talk to a whole slew of people," said Columbia County EMA Director Jennifer Long.
Long says there are now ways to more fluidly enter information, and account for what's lost.
People's estimates don't have to be exact, just a best guess, she adds.
"It's easier to have people come to one spot and be able to take care of everything at once," she said. "We're have people people enter things into the computer right here, so we can get all the estimates and the quicker we can get that done and get it pushed up to the state, the better it will be for any kind of federal declaration."
And dealing with all the damage... can be complicated and overwhelming.
"I fell apart Wednesday, it wasn't pretty. But what good is that, because there's nothing I could have done to prevent it and nothing I can do now, except thank the Lord that I'm still alive," shared Petersen.
Among the resources are also counselors from CMSU Mental Health, the Columbia Montour Snyder Union.
"People sort of try to cope and go on, but then they sort of try to do too much, which exacerbates the stress, so we try to help people make sure they take care of themselves," said Richard Beach, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Admin.
Resource center organizers tallied a few hundred people who've stopped in to fill out paperwork or dropped it off, but they say there are thousands more affected by the floods.
"This kinda has to stop. Something has to be done with the creeks or... I don't know what the answer is, but something's gotta be done because when people's lives are starting to be put in jeopardy... then it's time to do something," said Petersen.
EMA officials say now that Governor Wolf's office has proclaimed a state of disaster emergency, they're hoping the federal government will declare as well.
This multi-agency resource center will be set up at Benton High school again Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.
If you are unable to meet with agency representatives during these hours, you can contact Columbia County EMA at (570) 389-5720.
If you are in Columbia County or elsewhere and have been affected by flooding, you can contact your local municipality for paperwork information.