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Residents relying on each other for help in flood recovery

Updated: Thursday, May 22 2014, 05:33 PM EDT

Reported By: Deven Clarke
Written By: Marc Stempka

RIDGWAY, Pa. -- The rain poured down and the water rose quickly in Elk County causing massive flooding which led to evacuations, damage and destruction of memories.

With sunnier and clearer weather in the Ridgway area Thursday, one day after the Clarion River overflowed its banks by more than 5 feet, residents started picking up what they could and lining up ruined items along street curbs.

Michelle Bogaki has lived in Ridgway for five years and said she lost everything on the first floor of her home.

"The water was up at least 2-½ feet into our first floor," Bogaki said. "[We] have to remove everything and then assess how to approach the next stage of ripping out the carpet."

Bogaki's neighbor, Geraldine Smith, has lived in Ridgway for decades and has seen flooding before.

"I've been here for 48 years and I've gone through four floods before, but this one was the worst of all," Smith said.

She said her basement was filled with water and she lost many valuable keepsakes.

"I lost picture albums of my family. I lost good books, like medical books and some other good books I’ll never be able to replace," Smith said.

As residents work to clean out their homes, help is arriving from several agencies, including the American Red Cross and state emergency management departments.

"We're in today to partner with county emergency management and state emergency management to do some damage assessment in the area," said Jason Bange, Red Cross disaster program director. "We’ll look at the affected home to see what the unmet needs are in the community and how we can come in and help residents."

Elk County Emergency Management Director Mike McAllister said the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is in town and will be working with businesses to address their needs.

"Their job is to look and see how much damage has occurred," McAllister said. "They'll try to put a financial number to it so that we can see if there may be some funding available, possibly in the near future."

McAllister expected the disaster recovery teams to remain in place for quite some time.

Meanwhile, Bogaki said neighbors will continue to work together to recover.

"We're very fortunate in Ridgway. We have such a community that will support each other, neighborhood to neighborhood," Bogaki said. "I guarantee neighbors are helping in some way."

Residents relying on each other for help in flood recovery

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times