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Protect The DuBois Area From More Floods

I have not lived in or near DuBois for 18 years, but I was delighted by last week’s news that the city has received a $710,000 grant to modernize the flood control measures that were first put in in 1972, almost a half-century ago.

During my 13 years in the DuBois area, the basement of our house along the Pentz Run creek just south of the city limits flooded twice, both times in 1996.

In January, we heeded the advice of experienced neighbor Joe Woods. We pulled our sump pumps when the water outside our house covered the yard along three sides.

Trying to keep a basement water-free when the house is surrounded by water invites collapse of the block foundation, he said.

We pulled the sump pumps up to the back porch. Penelec cut power to our house. We sat in the kitchen of our rapidly chilling house, helplessly watching gunky water creep toward us, one basement stairway step at a time.

That flood stopped when the water was two steps below our first floor. Sandy Township firefighters pumped us out.

We lost a washing machine and clothes dryer, a furnace motor and some irreplaceable mementoes I had forgotten to move upstairs. The most significant were school report cards of our six children, from kindergarten through high school. Those had proved entertaining when those children had kids of their own.

Flood insurance and savings made us whole again as far as the appliances and motor were concerned, but not so for those lost touchstones.

In July, flooding struck again, worse this time. We were also better prepared after the January experience. I encased our washing machine and dryer in heavy-duty plastic bags used to wrap merchandise stacked on pallets.

The in-a-bubble dryer floated to the ceiling as water rose to within just one step of our first floor. When it receded, three or four days of hosing and scrubbing got mud and gunk off basement walls and floor. When I unpacked the dryer, the lint inside was still dry and fluffy.

I had also unbolted the furnace motor and stashed it in our attic. And we checked every drawer and cupboard and emptied every shelf to ensure that nothing of significance that was water-damageable remained in the basement.

But if the floodwaters had gained just another foot or two, into our first floor, the damage would have been devastating.

Every day after those floods, I crossed the Sandy Bridge over Pentz Run to get to and from work at the newspaper. Every day, I muttered curses at its brush-choked state that had worsened the effects of the floodwaters.

Eventually, the streambed was cleared and the water flowed more freely. I haven’t checked since 2003 to see how well that area of Pentz Run Avenue in Sandy Township has fared, but I’ll bet that the occupants of every home in the region applauded the recent news about the flood control grant.

The newspaper plant itself had been built in the late 1980s to rise above likely floodwaters in the aptly named marshy Beaver Meadow. But as decades of silt made the nearby Sandy Lick Creek shallower, and as reeds and silt clogged the sardonically named “Beaver Ditch” between the newspaper building and Beaver Drive, flood waters threatened to shut down newspaper operations on at least two other occasions.

The architectural safeguards did work. No water entered the pressroom or offices. The building sits high on a concrete slab atop slate fill. But water came within a hair’s breadth of surrounding the building twice.

That would have forced us to cut electricity and stop operations.

A flood there would have cost the jobs of our workers, at least for a while, regardless of whether they lived in a flood plain. We did have arrangements with newspapers in nearby towns, “You print ours; we’ll print yours.” But without places to work and computers to use, our reporters, editors, advertising workers and delivery people would have been almost hamstrung.

Readers and advertisers could have suffered from a lack of information, both about the flood and about the availability of shelters, replacement materials, even such things as hip waders and, after the events, cleaning supplies.

When floods hit communities, floods hit entire communities, not just the homes and businesses in the path of the floodwaters.

Do you live on a hilltop? Great; so do we, these days. But the roads inevitably descend into valleys in our area of Pennsylvania. Getting from here to there doesn’t work.

Floods, especially in winter, tear up pavement and water, gas and sewer lines. They snarl everybody, crush some of us financially, cause tears, anger and, in worst cases, despair.

Getting a flood control grant is good news. But it is only half the battle.

DuBois and Sandy Township need to prod state and federal bureaucrats to not let rules designed to protect chipmunks prevent the dredging that will lessen the flood danger for people and buildings.

Good luck with that.

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net.

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