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 Flood Awareness

As part of its effort to save you money from flood damage and reduce your flood insurance premiums, the Borough of Selinsgrove is implementing a variety of flood protection activities, including periodic cleaning of the ditches and channels, regulating new construction in the floodplain, and preserving flood prone areas as open space. There are also some things that you can do.

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The Local Flood Hazard

Properties in Selinsgrove’s floodplain are subject to three flood problems: over bank flooding, local drainage and area flooding, and sewer backup. You could be faced with one, two or all of these hazards.

Over-bank Flooding:
The major flood problem facing Selinsgrove is flooding of the Susquehanna River. Since 1891, 56 floods have caused the Susquehanna River to exceed its channel capacity and inundate riverfront communities.

Find out if your property is in the mapped floodplain and subject to over bank flooding by calling the Borough Office at 374-2311.

The Flood Insurance Rate Map identifies floodplains in the Borough. You can download this map here:

 

 
Although some of the most notable floods were the result of tropical storms, the majority of flood events are attributed to snowmelts; 20 of the 25 largest floods on record occurred between January and April. Major flood events in our area occurred in 1936, 1972, 1975, 1996 and 2004.

Penns Creek drains from the northwest and parallels the Susquehanna River, creating the Isle of Que. Penns Creek is subject to flooding from heavy local storms and backup flooding when the Susquehanna floods. Over-bank flooding also occurs along two smaller tributaries that drain from the west: South Tributary and Weiser Run. A flash flood occurred on these smaller streams in September of 1999.

Over bank flooding affects the entire Isle of Que and much of the Borough east of Water Street. A total of 160 buildings are subject to damage during the 100-year flood. Flooding also presents a safety hazard. Velocities can be as high as 6 or 7 feet per second – so fast that the flood will wash people off their feet in only ½ foot of floodwaters.  If you live in this area and you have been warned by emergency personnel that a flood is imminent, move items from the basement to higher levels.  Secure items that may be outside the house and/or in out buildings.  Open garage doors and all basement windows and doors in order to equalize the pressure of flood water.  Allowing the water to enter the basement will equalize the pressure on the foundation walls.  The force of flood water can, and has, broken through foundation walls causing the affected building to be condemned.  Finally, remove all vehicles to higher ground and evacuate the area when directed by emergency personnel.

Local Drainage and Area Flooding:
There are several areas of local drainage problems where storm water collects and does not drain away fast enough. These include between Spruce and Mill Streets, Broad St. at Seals Drive, Liberty Alley between Pine St. and University Ave, Liberty Alley South of University Ave., 18th St. near the Middle School, North High and W. Snyder Streets, and Broad Street and along Weiser Run. Sometimes, flooding is aggravated by debris that has been carelessly thrown into the channel.

Sewer Backup:
With no place to go, sewers back up and flow into the lowest opening in the sewer line. Sanitary sewers back up into basements and storm sewers back up into streets. Selinsgrove has had basement flooding caused by sewer backups. The worst problems were when the Susquehanna was also flooding and there was nowhere for the storm water to go.

 

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Flood Safety and Emergency Measures
No matter what kind of building you have, some last minute emergency measures can always help. For example, you could move valuable items (photos, antiques, and other “irreplaceables”), or items that are most damaged by floodwaters (upholstered furniture, stuffed toys, mat­tresses, foam rubber, etc.) up to a higher level. 

Whatever emergency protection measures you use, it is always best to have a plan written in advance to make sure you don’t forget anything after you hear the flood warning.

Safety Tip: 1

Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the No. 1 cause of flood deaths. Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. If you go through an area where the water is not flowing, use a pole or stick to ensure that the ground is still there.  Manhole covers can become dislodged.

Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.


 

Safety Tip: 2

Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number two flood killer after drowning is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to the Police Department by calling 911.

Look before you step. After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.

Look out for animals that have been flooded out of their homes and who may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn things over and scare away small animals.

Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns, or an open flame unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.

Carbon monoxide exhaust kills. Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine outdoors. The same goes for camping stoves. Charcoal fumes are especially deadly.  Cook with charcoal outdoors.


 

Safety Tip: 3

Clean everything that got wet. Floodwaters have picked up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories, and storage buildings. Spoiled food, flooded cosmetics, and medicine can be health hazards. When in doubt, throw them out.

Take good care of yourself. Recovering from a flood is a big job. It is tough on both the body and the spirit and the effects a disaster has on you and your family may last a long time. Keep your eyes open for signs of anxiety, stress, and fatigue in you and your family.


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Flood Insurance
Flood insurance is highly recommended because no flood-proofing measure is 100% foolproof. Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover a property for flood damage. The Borough of Selinsgrove partici­pates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Local insurance agents can sell an NFIP policy under rules and rates set by the Federal government. Any agent can sell a policy and all agents must charge the same rates.

Any house in Selinsgrove can be covered by a flood insurance policy. 

  • Building coverage: covers everything that stays with a house when it is sold, including the furnace, cabinets, built-in appliances, and wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Contents coverage: covers furniture and other personal possessions except for money, valuable papers, and the like. Renters can buy contents coverage, even if the owner does not buy building coverage.

 
Don’t wait for the next flood to buy insurance protection. There is a 30-day waiting period before National Flood Insurance coverage takes effect. Contact your insurance agent for more information on rates and coverage.

There is no cover­age for things outside the house, like the driveway and landscaping. If you have a policy, check it closely. Some people have purchased flood insurance because the bank required it when they got a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually these policies just cover the building’s structure and not the contents. You may only have building coverage. If so, your furniture, carpeting, appliances, and other contents are not covered.

An NFIP policy covers sewer backup and basement seepage if there is a general condition of flooding in the area.  You may do better by checking out sump pump failure or sewer backup coverage that might be available as an addition to your homeowner’s insurance policy. Each company has different amounts of coverage, exclusions, deduct­ibles, and arrangements. Most exclude damage from surface flooding that would be covered by an NFIP­ policy. The cost varies from nothing to up to $100 more on your homeown­er’s insurance premium.

FEMA has the latest information on flood insurance at:
FEMA’s Answers to Questions About the National Flood Insurance Program are at:

 

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Property Protection Measures and Flood Proofing
Flood-proofing a house means altering it so that floodwaters will not cause damage. Different flood-proofing techniques are appropriate for different types of buildings. Use the following as a guideline:

  • If you have a basement, split level, or other floor below ground level, there are many ways to protect your basement or lower floor from seepage and sewer backup (see illustration).
  • If your house is on a slab founda­tion, investigate a low floodwall, berm or “dry flood-proofing” (i.e., making the walls watertight and closing all the openings when a flood comes).
  • If your house is on a crawlspace, a low floodwall, berm or “wet flood-proofing” will work. “Wet flood-proofing” means moving all items subject to damage out of harm’s way so water can flow into the crawlspace and not cause any problems. If floodwaters go over the first floor, it is relatively easy to elevate the building to get the first floor above the flood level.
Backup valve


 

An excellent source for more information is the Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to protect Your House from Flooding (FEMA publication 312).
It can be found at the Library, ordered (for free) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency by calling 1-800-480-2520, or viewed and downloaded from FEMA’s web site at:

Links to other documents on the Internet with flood mitigation information:

 

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Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains
The Borough’s Hazard Mitigation Plan set three goals regarding the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains.

  1. Protect existing natural resources and open space, including parks and wetlands, within the floodplain and watershed with state or federal funding.
  2. Restore degraded natural resources and open space to improve their flood control function with state or federal funding.
  3. Participate in Susquehanna Greenway Planning effort.
Certain areas have unique hydrologic, habitat, or pollution and flood mitigation characteristics that warrant attention. Five categories of natural or sensitive areas are:
  • Stream corridors
  • Wetlands
  • Steep slopes
  • Highly erodible soils
  • Karst bedrock (limestone and dolomite)
These natural and beneficial floodplain functions include the following:
        o   Storage of floodwaters/flood flow attenuation
  • Shallow infiltration to absorb overland flood flow
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Removal/filtering of excess nutrients, pollutants, and sediments from floodwaters
  • Habitat for flora and fauna
  • Recreational and aesthetic opportunities

Stream corridors include the channel, floodway, and adjacent riparian (or streamside) lands. Development in and near waterways can result in sediment loads to the stream. Modifications made to streams to allow for development can be detrimental to the natural physical features of the stream, stable steam banks and channel bottoms as well as natural meanders. Unstable stream banks and channels are much more vulnerable to flood damage as are any nearby structures or development. Vegetated areas along streams stabilize the stream bank, filters, pollutants, and provides habitat. Setbacks and vegetated buffer areas can be used to protect these natural streamside features from the impacts of development.

Wetlands are often found in floodplain areas. Wetland habitats are typically home to a diverse and unique number of species that rely on these habitats for certain life requirements. Wetlands play a valuable role in reducing flood velocities and storing floodwaters, filtering pollution and improving water quality, and providing groundwater recharge areas.

Steep slopes and highly erodible areas may adversely contribute to flooding if they are left open to development and unprotected by natural vegetation, root systems, and their natural soil structures. When disturbed, these areas can contribute large loads of sediment along with high velocity and large capacities of storm water run-off to receiving streams or rivers.

Karst bedrock areas can pose additional hazards. Such areas are characterized by soluble underlying bedrock of limestone or carbonate rocks and are found in many parts of Pennsylvania. The nature of these rock areas makes them vulnerable to sinkholes and unpredictable changes in groundwater flows. Storm water or run-off concentrations in these types of areas can pose a hazard for sinkhole formation.

Several areas in Selinsgrove have been identified in the National Wetlands Inventory. The largest is the borrow pit on the Isle of Que associated with the construction of the 11/15 by-pass. The 31-acre wetland spans the border between the Borough and Penn Township. Other wetlands are found along Penns Creek and on the islands in the Susquehanna River.

The Susquehanna River Greenway Partnership is the latest chapter in the Susquehanna Story. The Greenway will link natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resources within a one-mile wide corridor of the Susquehanna River Main Stem and West Branch. It will establish a basin-wide foundation for resource management and community conservation-factors of lasting importance to the economies and quality of life of river communities. Selinsgrove's participation insures that its interests and wishes are incorporated in the visioning, strategy preparation and project development phases.

 

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Map of Local Flood Hazards
The FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map identifies the 100 and 500-year floodplains.
This map can be found at the www.ckcog.com website:

 

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Flood Warning System
The National Weather Service Mid-Atlantic Forecast Center in State College provides crest predictions for the Susquehanna River gage at Sunbury, PA located on grounds of electricity generating plant, 1.0 miles downstream from Shamokin Creek, 1.5 miles downstream from Adam Bower Dam (the Fabridam), and 1.8 miles south of Sunbury. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) provides guidance to counties regarding flooding hazards on small watersheds. Experienced observers from upstream also provide important insights into the flooding probabilities at Selinsgrove. An additional gauge  (http://newweb.erh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=ctp&gage=pncp1&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1)  along Penns Creek is located on left bank 200 ft downstream from bridge on State Highway 104, 0.8 miles northeast of the village of Penns Creek, and 2.9 miles upstream from Sweitzers Run. The drainage area above the gauge is 301 square miles. The gauge is approximately 9.5 miles upstream from Selinsgrove, PA.

The Snyder County Emergency Management Agency and its 911 Dispatch Center in Selinsgrove provide emergency management services to the Borough of Selinsgrove and other municipalities in Snyder County. The Snyder County 911 Dispatch Center provides round-the-clock monitoring of NOAA Weather Radio, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency alert notices and monitors all communications traffic of local fire, ambulance, river rescue and police organizations. Through these means, the Center identifies probable flooding events and directs emergency agencies to respond.

Counties along the North Branch and Main stem of the Susquehanna River from Wilkes Barre in Luzerne County downstream through Columbia, Montour, Snyder and Northumberland Counties have been provided with the Susquehanna River Flood Warning and Response System (FWRS). The Hydrologic Engineering Center of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) designed and developed the FWRS for the Philadelphia district, USACE. The FWRS was released to Counties in June of 2003.

Using GIS software, the FWRS allows users to visualize floodplain inundation extent and depth from forecasted stages at four gauges along the Susquehanna River: Wilkes-Barre, Bloomsburg, Danville and Sunbury. Upon receiving a forecast, managers will use the FWRS to identify hazard areas and prepare and execute flood response measures to alleviate the loss of life and mitigate structural and content damages.

In Selinsgrove the FWRS enables the Borough to visualize the extent of flooding from flood heights forecasted at the Sunbury gage. A series of flood inundation maps have been plotted to show the extent of flooding at one-foot interval from 25 to 41 feet as forecasted at the Sunbury gauge.

The Borough will place the entire Flood Warning Plan or appropriate parts into operation under any of the following conditions:
  • Issuance of a flood warning by the Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center for flooding on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River.
  • Issuance of a flood warning by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
  • Issuance of a flood warning by the Snyder County Emergency Management Agency, the organization that provides Emergency Management service to the Borough of Selinsgrove.
  • Monitoring of river gages on Internet sites of USGS and Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center
  • Monitoring of Weather Channel on local TV and
  • Monitoring of Weather pages on Internet on cable modem at EOC.
  • Borough staff and Police Department read the informal Flood gage on the Isle of Que at the Susquehanna River frequently.
  • Flood situation alerts are also relayed from the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
  • Notifications of flood situations along Weiser Run provided by Selinsgrove Police Department and residents.
  • Additionally, many emergency management personnel listen to the NOAA Weather Radio; a few have pagers tuned to Weather Radio tone alerts system.

The decision to activate the Plan is to be made by the Emergency Management Coordinator or designated alternate. Upon activation of the Plan, notification will be given to appropriate heads of Borough departments. Once activated, the Plan will be directed by the Emergency Management Coordinator with advice from other Borough Departments, including Public Works and Police. Only those parts of the Plan appropriate to the situation will be activated.

Snyder County Emergency Management will "tone-out" to all emergency services primarily on high-band radio frequencies. This radio tone alert is sent to fire and ambulance companies, and to police departments, Emergency Management Coordinators, River Rescue teams and the Red Cross. Verbal messages are delivered to pagers of emergency personnel.

Snyder County Emergency Management is in the process of establishing a Reverse 911 system in the county. Through this system residents, schools and businesses can be directly notified by telephone of emergency situations and be provided emergency instructions.

 

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Floodplain Development Permit Requirements
Lots in Selinsgrove were originally designed so that water would flow away from the building and along property lines to the street, storm sewer, or ditch. Fences, railroad ties, landscaping and regrading block this flow, so do construction projects in the ditches or the floodplain.

  • Always check with the Borough Office before you build on, fill, alter, or regrade your property. A permit is needed to ensure that such projects do not cause problems on other properties.

New buildings in the floodplain must be protected from flood damage. Our development regulations require that new residential buildings must be elevated 1½ feet above the base flood level. These regulations are designed to protect you and your neighbors. By getting the proper permits before you build, we can prevent flooding and other drainage problems.

 

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Substantial Damage Requirements
The ordinance also requires that all substantial improvements and substantial damage to a building be treated as a new building. A project is “substantial” when the value of an addition, alteration, repair or reconstruction project exceeds 50% of the value of the existing building. In the case of an addition, only the addition must be protected. In the case of an improvement to the original building, the entire building must be protected.

For example, if a house in the floodplain is flooded, has a fire, is hit by a tornado, or is otherwise damaged so that the cost of repairs is more than 50% of the value of the building before the damage, then the house must be elevated above the base flood level or demolished.


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Drainage System Maintenance
The Borough crews inspect the drainage system periodically throughout the year, especially following flooding and severe storm events. The crews remove debris that could potentially block drainage and cause flooding. Residents also have a role in keeping the drainage system free from debris.

 
  • Every piece of trash can contribute to flooding. Even grass clippings and branches can accumulate and plug channels. If your property is next to a ditch or storage basin, please do your part and keep the banks clear of brush and debris.
  • Do not dump or throw anything into the ditches or basins. Dumping in our ditches and storage basins is a violation of Borough Code.
  • You can do your part in helping the drainage system work. Sweep or clean out your gutters to prevent blockages in the storm sewers. Pick up trash and fallen branches in the ditches.

If you see dumping or debris in the ditches or basins, filling or construction near property lot lines, or filling or construction in the floodplain without a permit sign posted, contact the Borough Office at 374-2311. The debris or construction project may cause flooding on your property.  

 

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Elevation Certificates
New construction and substantial improvements to buildings on the floodplain requires a FEMA Elevation Certificate. A registered surveyor prepares this certificate. Information on the Certificate include ground elevation and elevation of the first floor of the structure. Elevation certificates already completed are on file at the Borough office.

The FEMA Elevation Certificate Information Web Page includes the new 2006 EC form and guidebook in downloadable format:

 

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Real Time River Gauge Data
Real time stream data is available for the Susquehanna River and Penns Creek over the Internet.

Water levels of the Susquehanna River can be obtain from the Sunbury river gauge at the power plant in Shamokin Dam on these websites:

A gauge for Penns Creek water levels is located on Penns Creek at the PA 104 bridge, near the Village of Penns Creek. Water levels can be obtained from these websites:
River Forecasts
River forecast statements and river conditions can be obtained at the Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center at State College, from these websites:
Newer forecast presentations are being demonstrated on the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website at:
Flood Control Reservoir Status
Information on the flood control reservoirs in the Susquehanna River Basin operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers can be found at this site:

 

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Emergency Measures
Evacuation Procedures
Residents will be notified as early as possible of the need to evacuate their properties. This notification will come from Borough officials, police and fire police officers and through the Snyder County Reverse 911 system and local radio stations. Residents are urged to heed this evacuation notification and leave flood prone areas. Even though the home may be elevated, it is import to evacuate the flood area. Postponing an evacuation places both the resident at risk and the rescue crew who may be called for assistance. Rescues are especially hazardous and dangerous at night.

Evacuation Routes
From the Isle of Que, residents evacuate using the Pine Street Bridge over Penns Creek. Depending upon the severity of the flood event, the Borough may open the emergency evacuation route from Bough Street onto the US 11-15 bypass. Fire Police will be on-hand to provide instructions.

Special cautions upon return.
The Borough issued a series of press releases during the flooding from Ivan in September 2004 as the water rose and receded. Special notice was given to the hazards on the Isle of Que following the flood event such as missing man hole covers that had been lifted by flood pressures and holes created by sidewalk construction projects that are hidden under water.

The Borough will try to provide emergency assistance in the forms of debris collection, and appliance pick up, and the fire company will pump basements, based on the time you request this service. Care will be taken not to pump too soon in order to avoid collapsing basement walls. Residents will be notified of these services, but can always call the Borough Hall for instructions.

 

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Flood Event Information
The Borough will, from time to time, place information in this section with instruction about a specific emergency event.