The numbers are staggering. Nearly 5,400 homes and businesses sustained some form of flood damage last week in Luzerne, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties in Pennsylvania, officials said Monday.
Even that statistic covers a broad catalogue of untold misery, ranging from water-damaged basements to complete destruction.
Many officials have their hopes pinned on the Obama administration to declare a disaster, so that assistance -- money -- will be made available for rebuilding shattered properties and disrupted lives.
"Until I get a presidential declaration," said Gene Dziak, Wyoming County's emergency management agency coordinator, "I'm sitting here on my hands waiting."
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in the process of channeling some federal money to local governments for bridge and road repairs, and other public works infrastructure repairs, the agency on Monday had yet to open that avenue for home and business owners, said spokesman Mike Sweet.
"As of right now, there's no individual assistance," he said.
The federal agency has completed its own on the ground damage assessment in Northeast Pennsylvania, and part of determining whether residents can get federal dollars to pay for home repairs is calculating the number of uninsured and underinsured homeowners impacted by flooding.
The aid covers property that has been damaged or destroyed -- but only for those who lack flood insurance.
It can also go toward paying for temporary, rented housing, and permanent construction. FEMA handles requests on a case by case basis, Mr. Sweet said.
Total dollar figures for the damage are not yet available, but the devastation's physical scope became more clear as the new week began.
In Luzerne County alone, at least 2,019 homes and 107 businesses were affected in some way by the deluge.
Those preliminary damage estimates, provided by Luzerne County Commissioner Stephen A. Urban late Monday, do not include several municipalities, as county officials continue to assess the situation.
West Pittston was hit hard: 880 homes and 26 businesses affected. So was Duryea, with 334 homes and Five businesses damaged.
Garbage trucks in Duryea and surrounding communities rumbled through the heaviest hit streets on Monday cleaning up tons of mud soaked carpets and furniture, bird cages and plastic Christmas yard ornaments -- and whatever else homeowners had stored in the basement.
There was so much debris waiting to be hauled off to the landfill that Frank Grobleski, the emergency management director, said the borough's monthly landfill bill will probably jump to $70,000 from the usual $1,500 a month.
"If we don't get help from the feds or the state, we'll take a shot," Mr. Grobleski said. He estimated the price tag, including damage done to borough residents' homes, to be between $5 million and $7 million.
In Wyoming County, estimates show the number of damaged properties hovering around 3,200.
"We have teams out in the field" still surveying the destruction, Mr. Dziak said. "People don't have a place to go. People don't have a place to stay."
In Susquehanna County, officials have so far counted 2 homes completely erased by the floods, and 65 with major damage, said Larry Souder, a county EMA spokesman.
"It's just the tip of the iceberg," he said.
Help on the way?
Some help could be right around the corner.
Federal, state, and local officials are urging FEMA and the White House to release the federal funds for home and business owners immediately.
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey issued a letter to President Obama, imploring the administration to act now.
"Tropical Storm Lee has resulted in the deaths of 13 Pennsylvanians and is the worst flooding in the region since Hurricane Agnes in 1972," the senator said in a statement. "Time is of the essence and we must move quickly to ensure that the affected communities receive immediate relief and long-term assistance to begin rebuilding."
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, has spent time touring the areas hard-hit by the flooding, his spokesman Shawn Kelly said.
The congressman was in West Pittston on Monday and toured the destruction in Duryea.
It was "too soon to tell" how soon FEMA money may be made available to help people pick up the pieces, Mr. Kelly said.
Meanwhile, people who have been affected by the flood should document the damage and keep receipts to submit in order to possibly recoup their expenses, he said.
"Do not wait to clean up. Start ... immediately," Mr. Sweet said, regardless of when a disaster declaration is made.
Susquehanna County's Mr. Soulder cautioned that the public should hold off applying for assistance until that happens.
"It's too soon," he said.
Staff writers, Joe McDonald and Erin Nissley, contributed to this report.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Preliminary damage, Luzerne County
Impacted Homes | Businesses
Nescopeck Twp. 23 | 0
Plymouth 62 | 11
West Pittston 88 | 26
Plains Twp. 69 | 37
> Nescopeck Borough 45 | 1
Salem Twp. 102 | 3
Duryea 334 | 5
Hanover Twp. 66 | 14
Conyngham Twp. 202 | 0
Exeter Twp. 74 | 3
Larksville 0 | 7
Wilkes-Barre 162 | 0
Total 2019 | 107
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