Some Counties Getting No Help for Blizzard Cleanup

CARBON COUNTY -- Emergency management officials in some area communities feel cheated. Even though the Blizzard of 2017 battered their boroughs and townships, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) says under rules set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),  these communities are in counties that did not get quite enough snow to qualify for state help.

Several boroughs and townships busted their municipal budgets on snow removal in the days after the blizzard, and now, they're crying foul, claiming they won't be reimbursed for some of their expenses because they are on the wrong side of county lines.

Piles of melting snow still dot the streets of Lansford in Carbon County. Two weeks ago, a blinding blizzard shut down roads and trapped people inside their homes for three days.

"The food stores were shut. You couldn't get food. Gas stations were closed. The town was shut down for that time period," said Lansford Police Chief Jack Soberick.

Soberick can't believe after all that, Lansford does not qualify for state assistance for snow removal. He's the borough's police chief and emergency response coordinator.

"I was very, very angry because we did everything right," he said.

According to PEMA, nine area counties in our area qualified for emergency assistance for up to 75 percent of the cost of snow removal:

  • Bradford
  • Susquehanna
  • Wayne
  • Pike
  • Lackawanna
  • Luzerne
  • Wyoming
  • Montour
  • Northumberland

But nine other counties will get no help and some are crying foul:

  • Schuylkill
  • Carbon
  • Monroe
  • Columbia
  • Lycoming
  • Clinton
  • Union
  • Snyder
  • Sullivan

In Hazle Township, Luzerne County, officials expect the state to reimburse most of the township's $30,000 spent on snow removal. But just over the county line in Carbon County, Banks Township not be reimbursed a single cent of the money it spent on snow removal.

A spokeswoman for PEMA emailed Newswatch 16 that to be eligible for financial help from the federal government via the state, counties needed, "record or near-record snowfall."

To achieve a near record, Carbon County needed 28 inches of snow over two days to be recorded by the National Weather Service. It fell four inches short with a recording of 24 inches in Coaldale, located just over the county line in nearby Schuylkill County.

"That doesn't seem fair at all," said Gabriel Uhlman of Lansford. "I have to wonder who set that up and what the inner workings of it are."

"It's not fair at all, not fair at all," said Rosemary Serina of Lansford.

A few miles north of Lansford, McAdoo in Schuylkill County spent $15,000 for snow removal. Its streets foreman says the borough, just south of the Luzerne County line, will delay scheduled road projects to pay its tab.

Lansford borough spent an estimated $50,000 to clear its streets. But instead of reimbursement, the borough only has piles of dirty snow to show for the cleanup efforts.

"Your weather service correctly predicted a potential blizzard for this area, and that's what we got. How that's not crippling, I don't know," added Chief Soberick.

Officials in Lansford and in other communities in Carbon and Schuylkill Counties want their state senators and representatives to put pressure on the state to get help.

PEMA officials say the snowfall totals are in the books and there will be no recount.

*Updated at 9:40 PM to show that PEMA is bound by federal rules.

8 comments

  • Sasquatch

    It seems even after the “blizzard” ended it gets worse by the day I got 28″ of snow on my road yet I wasn’t trapped in my home for three days matter of fact I left my home that very morning I see a lot of embellished media about this “blizzard” matter of fact its been beaten into a pile of slush how did county and local government survive the storms of the 50’s , 60’s , 70’s etc with little or no Federal help and what about the penndot plow I seen post “blizzard” with its plow down and plowing no snow on US route 220 ?????

  • Sam I Am

    Some Counties that got the aid, had a very mild winter last year, so these counties should have money left over from last year, and the counties that got zilch this year were hit hard last year with 24″ or more, unfortunately the state has to draw the line somewhere, and it just happens to be a county line.

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