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Northeast begins flood recovery

Mary Ann Stopay shows the damage flood waters caused inside her shop Jon L. Stopay Candies on River Street in Plains Township, Pa.,   Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.    As Pennsylvania residents clean up after flooding that drove tens of thousands from their homes and may have killed as many as 13 people, officials were urging caution and asking people to report and document flood-related damage and expenses. (AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Kristen Mullen)  MANDATORY CREDIT

Mary Ann Stopay shows the damage flood waters caused inside her shop Jon L. Stopay Candies on River Street in Plains Township, Pa., Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011. As Pennsylvania residents clean up after flooding that drove tens of thousands from their homes and may have killed as many as 13 people, officials were urging caution and asking people to report and document flood-related damage and expenses. (AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Kristen Mullen) MANDATORY CREDIT

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Recovery efforts in the aftermath of flooding from Tropical Storm Lee focused Monday on reopening roads and bridges, cleaning the grimy layer of mud from receding waters and tallying up the millions of dollars in damage wrought by days of downpour last week.

For people in riverside towns prone to flooding, it felt familiar.

"The long haul now will be the money thing, the estimating, the recording, getting estimates on different things," said Mayor Norm Ball of Tunkhannock, a northeastern Pennsylvania town where parts of the business district were inundated by high waters from the Susquehanna River and tributaries. "It's quite a process -- I've dealt with it before."

In Pennsylvania, about 1,400 customers were still without power, 223 roads remained closed, and 18 state and local bridges had damage, with another 64 on a precautionary list, emergency officials said Monday. The state was establishing a joint task force to coordinate recovery efforts, with disaster response centers to be located in affected areas.

The unconfirmed death toll stood at 13, a figure that could change as death certificates are issued.

Authorities pulled the body of a Manheim man from Chiques Creek in Lancaster County on Sunday evening, the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era reported. The man was walking through flood waters Thursday when the current knocked him over, and he was swept away after holding on to a utility pole for about 20 minutes, the newspaper said.

Tests were being conducted at a home after a 62-year-old West Pittston woman died from inhaling some sort of gas, the Luzerne County coroner told The Citizens' Voice of Wilkes-Barre. Initial tests showed there was very little oxygen in the house, which had 3 feet of groundwater in the basement. Two cats also died.

More than a foot of rain fell in many communities over the five-day period that ended Friday, said meteorologist Jason Krekeler with the National Weather Service in State College. Harrisburg International Airport, which averages about 4 inches of rain in the entire month of September, got 13.4 inches over that five-day period.

"One thing to keep in mind is, a lot of these areas were hit fairly hard by (Hurricane) Irene as well, with 3 to 4, 5 inches in some locations," he said.

Across the region, preliminary damage assessments were being conducted on the ground and by air because parts of the state remain inaccessible, said Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesman Cory Angell.

"You don't just open a road when the water goes away," Angell said. "You have to inspect, find out what damage has occurred. Is the bridge stable, for example."

He urged people with losses to report them to their local governments because the dollar value factors into the state's eligibility for federal relief.