Folks in Bradford County, Pennsylvania are trying to clean up and rebuild after the recent flooding. WSKG headed there to see how the community is coping and moving forward.
Festival, despite the damage
At the River Fest Carnival in Towanda, Pennsylvania, toddlers ride in small firetrucks on one of those carnival rides on a trailer hitch.
Nearby is the man who drives the real truck, Fire Chief Bill Roof. A 50-year veteran of the department, he’s wearing a camouflage bucket hat and has three gold hoops in one ear. He’s working the department’s grilled chicken tent.
“Normally, we do three days down here – hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage and stuff.”
But this year, they didn’t have time for all that. For two days before the carnival, Fire Chief Roof and his crew helped with rescues, including a helicopter rescue for a dad and his kid. Their house washed into the Towanda Creek and the two were clinging to a tree.
“You can walk these creeks for the next couple of months and find stuff people have lost,” said Roof.
After an intense week, Roof was surprised the carnival happened at all. At first, he didn’t want to come, but says it’s good for community spirit.
“People helping people. A lot of that is going on. It makes you feel good. I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it. Like I said, I’ve been doing it for awhile. Sad thing it is, but people come together when there’s a disaster,” said Roof.
He says some residents offered up their apartment and gave furniture to the family that got airlifted from the creek.
Losing a friend and a home
About 30 minutes away from Riverfest in Towanda is New Albany, Pennsylvania. Standing on top of the bridge over the creek that had flooded, there are muddy, torn-up library books stuck in the side of the fence, like “Peter Rabbit: A Winter’s Tale.”
That’s because upstream on Rt. 220, the town library was swept into the middle of the road. News reports say there were people in the library at the time, but they huddled together and prayed. Ultimately, they made it out safely.
Many people say they’ve never experienced flooding like this before and many of them didn’t have flood insurance. They’re just glad no one got hurt.
One of those residents without flood insurance is Peter Bryan. He says he can barely think straight, let alone about the financial hit.
Anything that can be saved from his “mancave” in the basement is piled on his front lawn. Bryan powerwashes creek mud from lamps and model cars. He doesn’t plan redecorate.
“From now on, there’s only going to be two things down cellar is a water heater and a sump pump, just in case.”
Bryan’s never dealt with bad flooding. He wasn’t even home when the flood hit.
“My friend’s father was bad in the hospital and then we come home to this. Last night, we found out his father passed away.”
Bryan’s grateful for support from neighbors. One loaded up his tractor with garbage and drove it from this driveway to the dumpster.
“This is beyond our average”
While Bryan was surprised by the flooding, just down the street, Jessica Fullmer couldn’t get away from it.
“I took all the dogs and we went all up there and just sat,” said Fullmer. “I called many people and cried many times.”
She lives at the confluence of the two creeks. From the hill, she just watched the water get higher and higher. She managed to save a couple of her neighbor’s tropical fish.
Now, in her soggy big backyard, Fullmer looks at what used to be her oasis.
“In the summertime, we used to sit out here, listen to the water trickle underneath the back deck and.. it is what it is.”
Now, the pool is smashed in. Insurance will pay for the ripped up deck, but she has no idea how to remove pounds of creek rocks that washed into in her yard.
“We had three acres of grass. Grass. I have about two acres of rocks now… We are average people, working average jobs. This here is beyond our average.”
Besides money, Fullmer’s also frustrated with some folks who aren’t part of the community. They stop, snap photos, then drive off.
“Gawking, taking pictures. It’s like, if you want to stop and look, stop and give a hand.”
She may not worry about that long; Fullmer and her boyfriend are considering just giving up this property.
“I’m over it. Ready to get away from here.”
For now, Fullmer plans to drive to where we started at River Fest in Towanda to watch the fireworks and take her mind off the damage.