Will the state help Bucks County residents hit by historic flash flood?

Maggie Kent Image
Wednesday, July 14, 2021

BENSALEM, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The massive flash flooding that hit parts of Bucks County on Monday left many people with damaged homes, ruined possessions, and worries about where financial help will come from.

The cleanup continued at the hard-hit Lafayette Gardens condo complex in Bensalem, Pa. on Wednesday.

Christine Buck was one of the many residents who had to be rescued. She was saved from her second-floor unit as the water rose.

The torrential rain that fell caused what experts say is a '100-year flood,' which means a flood of this intensity has a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.

RELATED: '100-year flood' hit part of the Philly region | Explainer

"Fire and rescue had to get me out in a dingy," she said. "Had to get me out, and a lot of other people, because the water came up that fast."

Buck came back to grab a few food items from her home.

"A bunch of the residents are here, salvaging what they can from their units. I can't take more than what I can carry," she said.

These homes are inhabitable right now. It's not clear if or when people will be allowed to return.

Because of that, the Red Cross has stepped in, and so far has assisted 54 families and 116 individuals.

"We need some compensation that will actually help our families, not just a $500 dollar gift card from Red Cross - even though that is something, I appreciate it. But that's nowhere near what we need as a community here," said Cornell Hairston.

Now the question is: will the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) help? There needs to be a disaster declared by the state in order for state funds - and eventually federal funds - to flow to these flood victims.

The office of Gov. Tom Wolf says PEMA is in the process of assessing damages with Bucks County to make a determination if this was in fact a disaster.

We asked what would classify as an 'Emergency Disaster' and how funds could be distributed. A PEMA Spokesperson said in part:

"In order to receive a federal disaster declaration for Individual Assistance, which provides money directly to homeowners and renters, the commonwealth would need to exceed a threshold of at least 300 homes that fit into the classification of 'major damage or 'destroyed' along with other considerations which are specified on the FEMA website.

In order to receive a federal disaster declaration for Public Assistance, which provides funding to governments and certain eligible non-profits to repair or replace damaged infrastructure, counties must meet individual thresholds that are based on population, and the commonwealth overall must meet a threshold of $19.6 million in damages."

Michael Golow - a landlord and board member with eight units at Lafayette Gardens - is concerned funding won't be provided.

"Everyone showed up yesterday around 12 o'clock and had a great photo shoot. Then PEMA came over yesterday and I asked whether it qualifies for a natural emergency or not, and they said, 'You don't have enough damages to qualify for that, it's going to take forever and we'll try to help,'" Golow said. "Everyone else, as they left the photo shoot, they said 'best of luck.'"

Storm Resource Information

  • If your car was towed during the storm please contact Bensalem Township Police Department at 215-633-3719.
  • If you are in need of shelter, a community resource center will be open in Bensalem Wednesday inside the Maltese Room behind the Cornwells Fire Company at 2049 Bristol Pike in Bensalem.
  • If you have property damage, please contact Keri Schiavo at the Bensalem Township Police Department at 215-633-3741. If no answer, please leave a message and someone will return your call within 24 hours.