FEMA denies disaster declaration in Lackawanna County

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said no to a disaster declaration for our area after severe storms and flooding in September 2023.

It’s been more than six months since that night, and many local communities are still trying to recover.

Many roads, bridges, homes, and businesses were damaged or destroyed and two lives were lost. Now, many local officials are discouraged for those who need help.

Six months after devastating flooding in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Those desperate for federal assistance were denied for a second time.

“We have to help these people,” pleaded Chris Chermak, the Lackawanna County Commissioner.

“It dumped about four to five inches of rain within several hours,” explained Tom Taylor, the Director of Emergency Management in Lackawanna County.

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A letter was sent in response to Governor Josh Shapiro’s appeal stating the following:

After a thorough review of all the information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that the impact from this event is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.”


In the Lackawanna Commissioners Meeting on Wednesday morning, Republican Commissioner Chris Chermak asked the Director of Emergency Management what could happen next.

“A heavy, heavy, financial burden on some of these municipalities, with millions of dollars that they are going to have to come up with on their own now,” said Taylor.

27 weeks have passed since this home off of Jackson Street in Scranton was flooded. On Wednesday, it still sits, uninhabitable.

“There were the homes down on Jackson Street that were a total loss that will probably never be able to go back to their homes,” explained Chermak.

Lackawanna County and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) together, came up with just over $24,000,000 worth of damages to infrastructure and roadways.

In South Abington Township, $1,500,000 in damages, on top of the loss of two lives. Hands are now tied for many in crucial need of financial help.

“Everyone had to dig into their own pockets to make the repairs. Armetta’s Pizza in South Abington Township, she was devastated but finally got back up and running,” Chermak added.

Congressman Matt Cartwright also weighed in Wednesday.

I’m deeply disappointed with FEMA’s decision. I saw firsthand the destruction and deadly impact these storms had. I know our communities deserve federal assistance.

Representative Matt Cartwright.

PEMA says they are looking into other opportunities for funding.

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