Preparedness & Recovery

Allegheny County, Pa., Seeks Federal Help to Repair Estimated $18M in Landslide Damage

The county received almost 10 inches of rain from Feb. 14 to April 4, according to the National Weather Service.

by Theresa Clift, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa. / May 8, 2018
Workers move trees, debris, and mud from from a landslide that started on Friday as clearing work continues on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Pittsburgh. The city says the landslide in the Duquesne Heights neighborhood worsened Sunday afternoon, pouring over a retaining wall and closing a section of roadway. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

(TNS) — A spate of landslides during a 10-week period this year in Allegheny County caused $18 million in damage to public property and counting, officials said Friday.

County and state officials have been calculating the damages in an effort to secure federal funding for repairs to damaged roads, bridges and infrastructure.

"We continue to add incidents to our damage assessments daily," Matt Brown, the county's chief of emergency services, said in an email.

County officials are seeking a disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — a declaration only state emergency management officials can request, Brown said.

"We continue to complete the state-level process of damage assessments in hopes that [the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency] will agree and submit to FEMA at the federal level for a possible presidential disaster declaration for public assistance," Brown said.

The county could face a challenge convincing FEMA that all the landslides over the 10-week period should be grouped together as one incident caused by a single weather event — record-breaking levels of precipitation.

"A disaster declaration is made for a singular event. It is taken into account when a disaster declaration is made what impacts may have existed prior to the declared event, but each event is separate and would be accounted for as such in a request for a disaster declaration," said William Powell, a FEMA spokesman. "When an event spans multiple days, the National Weather Service makes the determination of whether or not an event is singular or multiple incidents."

The county received almost 10 inches of rain from Feb. 14 to April 4, according to the National Weather Service.

During a news conference April 10 following a massive landslide that collapsed three lanes of Route 30 in East Pittsburgh, Brown said he did not think it would be a problem to show FEMA the slides were the result of one weather event.

"The federal government has seen these before, we just have to do our part to convince them that is the case," Brown said.

Gov. Tom Wolf added: "The root cause is the same, it's the weather pattern throughout this winter."

The county received FEMA funding for tornadoes and flooding and 2013, and for Tropical Depression Ivan in 2004, Powell said. The county has never received FEMA funding for landslides.

According to Brown, landslides counted in the $18 million figure caused damage to public property between Feb. 14 and April 30 in the following municipalities: Pittsburgh, Bellevue, Bethel Park, Carnegie, Castle Shannon, Collier, Edgeworth, Findlay, Forest Hills, Glassport, Harmar, Jefferson Hills, Kennedy, Lincoln, Millvale, Monroeville, Munhall, North Versailles, Penn Hills, Pitcairn, Pleasant Hills, Port Vue, Reserve, Robinson, Ross, Sewickley Heights, Swissvale, Thornburg, West Homestead, Wilkins, and Wilmerding.

The Route 30 landslide is not included because maintenance of the road is federally funded, Brown said.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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