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Storm cleanup to continue

In the wake of Wednesday’s storm in the county, area residents are cleaning up this morning, but temperatures should be good for cleanup crews in the area.

The storm prompted the closure of county offices as well as the closure of area schools.

According to information from the Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency, they’ve entered an incident in what is called the “Knowledge Center,” which is a statewide emergency management database where the county could report any critical incidents, resource requests and other unmet needs to the state Emergency Management Agency.

The commissioners also signed a county declaration of disaster emergency for the winter storm event, so if any critical incidents or resource requests were needed directly as a result of the storm, they could act quickly to fill those needs.

No power outages were reported with Wednesday’s storm as well.

According to John Banghoff, meteorologist with the National Weather Service bureau in State College, they received one report from Huntingdon Borough that indicated 4.8 inches of snowfall fell in the county.

“We also added around one-half inch of sleet and a glaze of freezing rain on top of that,” he said. “The farther south you went, there was more, and the northern parts got less, so it matched pretty well with what we were expecting.”

Temperatures are expected to hit the mid-40s by this afternoon, with winds 10-15 mph and 25 mph wind gusts.

“Things were dicey this morning with remnant snow, sleet and ice on the roads, but with how mild it’s going to be this afternoon, we should expect the snow and ice to start to melt,” said Banghoff.

The mild trend will continue Friday with sunshine and highs in the 40s, but rain is expected to enter the area by Saturday evening.

“Rain will spread heavily Saturday night into Sunday, with a slight risk of freezing rain Saturday night into Sunday morning,” said Banghoff. “Three quarters to an inch of rain is expected, so it’s something we’re keeping an eye on.”

Temperatures Sunday will hit the mid-50s, but with rain in the forecast, some localized flooding is possible.

“It doesn’t look like there will be a flash flood threat, and river flooding doesn’t look like a huge concern with snowmelt,” said Banghoff. “We are expecting rivers to rise, and places like Aughwick Creek, which is expected to get up to 7 feet Friday will see some additional rise to action stage. It deserves some attention and focus, but there’s no reason for widespread concern.”

A cold front will push through the area Sunday evening, bringing daytime temperatures back into the 30s for daytime highs as the workweek begins Monday.

“We’ll see a gradual cooling that will start mid-afternoon Sunday and fall through Monday morning, where lows will be in the low 20s,” said Banghoff. “But, it’s not bad, for this time of year.”

Another concern Sunday into Monday with the cold front pushing through is winds that could gust up to 40 mph at times.

“It’s possible there could be some downed limbs and downed trees with the very wet ground,” said Banghoff.

However, Banghoff said compared to recent weeks, the weather pattern looks calm.

“It may be a relatively quiet week next week,” said Banghoff. “There may be a little bit of activity with a glancing blow of rain and snow, but nothing too much to be concerned about.”

Shoveling properly prevents injury

Those who weren’t shoveling Wednesday will likely be clearing their sidewalks or driveways today, but it’s important to know how to shovel properly to avoid injury.

Adam Norfolk, PA-C, an experienced board-certified orthopedic surgery physician assistant at Geisinger Gray’s Woods, State College, said the most common injuries linked with snow removal include sprains and strains, especially in the back and shoulders, and even severe injuries like lacerations and finger amputations.

Norfolk’s first tip includes dressing appropriately when heading outside to shovel.

“Wearing light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation,” he said. “It is also important to wear the appropriate head covering and thick, warm socks. Choose gloves or mittens that will keep your hands warm, dry, and blister-free. You can avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.”

He also said it’s important not to wait until a large accumulation of snow has fallen before shoveling.

“Try to clear snow early and often — particularly if a large snowfall is expected,” said Norfolk “It is always best to begin shoveling when there is just a light covering of snow on the ground. Starting early will give you the best chance possible to avoid the potential injuries that come with moving packed, heavy snow.”

Additionally, Norfolk added that it’s important to see the entire area one is shoveling.

“Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision,” he said. “Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces.”

For those seeking treatment for heart conditions, it’s important to keep in touch with a doctor to ensure shoveling is an activity that can be done.

“Check with your doctor if you have any medical problems,” said Norfolk. “Clearing snow places a great deal of stress on the heart, so if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, you should speak with your doctor before shoveling or snow blowing. You may also wish to consider hiring someone to remove the snow, rather than doing it yourself.”

It may not be on a person’s radar to warm up before heading out to shovel, but Norfolk stresses that shoveling is a physical workout, so it’s important.

“Warm up your muscles; shoveling can be a vigorous activity,” said Norfolk. “Before you begin this physical workout, warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.”

It’s also important not to rush through it, causing overexertion.

“Pace yourself,” said Norfolk. “Snow shoveling and snow blowing are aerobic activities. Take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of a heart attack, stop the activity and seek emergency care.”

It may be common sense to make sure to have the proper shovel, but not having one could cause issues.

Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength,” said Norfolk. “Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage. Also, do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.”

There’s also a proper way to carry a snow shovel.

“Try to push the snow instead of lifting it,” said Norfolk. “If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once — this is particularly important in the case of heavy, wet snow.”

Friends of Golden Pond to host reception Sunday at camp

Guests, members of the public and potential donors are invited to a reception at Legacy Lodge Sunday, Feb. 24, to celebrate Camp Golden Pond’s bright future under the direction of the Friends of Golden Pond.

Tours of the facility will begin at 2 p.m., with the reception to be held at 3 p.m., at which time information concerning the negotiations to reopen the camp through a lease agreement, as well as future plans for the property, will be shared.

“We want to operate the camp for scouts and other youth groups and organizations — not just Girl Scouts,” said Friends of Golden Pond treasurer Ann Dunlavy. “The Friends of Golden Pond have been working on a rental agreement with the owner.”

The West Township camp facility was officially closed by its former owner, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA), in July 2018 and was purchased by John Sabella of Sabella Land and Forest Products, a family-owned business out of Warren County, in December.

Friends of Golden Pond board members include Dunlavy, president Megan Roberts, Joan Geleskie and Sharon Bloom.

“They purchased the total 291.62 acres and we will be leasing the core camp property, which is 55 acres and includes Lake Louise, the lodges and the outer units,” Dunlavy said. “The core camp will include all of the buildings, maintenance sheds and the ranger house.”

Following in the footsteps of a similar “friends” organization which purchased Camp Anderson in Tyrone after it was put up for sale, the Friends of Golden Pond will operate the camp through a lease agreement with the goal of buying the facility from Sabella.

“We enlisted the help of the Friends of Camp Anderson and met with the attorney they used as they had some experience with this type of thing,” she said. “The lease has been signed with the new owner of the property and the goal is to purchase it in a few years.”

Sabella has a buyer interested in purchasing the remaining acreage surrounding the core camp facilities.

“Legacy Lodge is a perfect place for conferences, retreats or even weddings,” said Dunlavy. “When it was operated as a Girl Scout camp, there were a lot of restrictions for use by outside groups, but this is going to open up a lot more possibilities. We are really excited about that.”

Under the leadership of Friends of Golden Pond, the camp will provide opportunities for youth and adult outdoor programs and will continue to provide a camp experience and to teach courage, confidence, leadership, problem-solving and more.

“It’s a gorgeous facility with a commercial kitchen, where some other event centers can’t offer that,” she said. “There is not a lot of group lodging facilities in the area, so having this one will be helpful.”

The reception is open to the public and reservations can be made at or on the group’s Facebook page. Light refreshments will be served.

“We want to bring people in and talk about what we are doing,” Dunlavy said. “We would love for people to come and see the camp, including potential donors who might be interested in helping us. This is an incredible opportunity and we don’t want to see it lost.”

Future of helium ‘up in the air’

The future of helium is very much up in the air as global shortages impact everything from brightly-colored party accessories to cutting-edge scientific research.

Helium, named for Helios, the Greek Titan of the sun, was discovered in 1895 when it was found to emanating from uranium ore. Less than 10 years later, in 1903, large reserves of the element were found in the natural gas fields beneath the Great Plains — which remains the largest supplier.

“It’s a byproduct of mining and manufacturing,” said Carol Guyer, owner of Cloudminders in Huntingdon. “Because they mine differently now, it’s not as available as it used to be.”

The National Helium Reserve, a storage facility located near Amarillo, Texas, established as an important source of coolant during the Cold War and Space Race in the 1950s was expected to run out by last year.

“There are three kinds of helium — that which is used for balloons, helium used in welding as a way to cool the metal and helium for medical use,” Guyer said, explaining that helium is vital as a coolant for MRI machines.

Shortages first made headlines around 2013 when helium prices spiked.

“The prices increased,” she said. “I didn’t have difficulty getting it, I was still able to get weekly deliveries if I needed it, but the price per tank was around $80 and went up over six or seven months. A year later, it was still hanging out at the same price.”

In recent months, the prices, which remained high from the prior shortages, rose even higher.

“The thing that has changed now is that it has almost doubled in price,” said Guyer. “One small tank used to cost $86. Now it’s between $136-160.”

Supply chain stability is also a growing concern.

“Helium is hard to come by. Most suppliers are not accepting new customers,” she said. “Even if you are a regular customer, you can’t guarantee that you are going to get anything. Medical customers are prioritized and are first on the list.”

Guyer said her helium supplier has supported her as a longtime customer and works to ensure that she receives her order.

“They try to keep two small tanks back for me,” she said. “As long as I can get that, I’m good for a couple of weeks.”

Trade publications and newsletters indicate the shortage is impacting businesses like Cloudminders around the world.

“The United Kingdom must really be hit. Their newsletters are constantly talking about the helium shortage and suggesting alternatives. A lot of them are using air in their designs instead of helium,” said Guyer. “In the United States, there are a couple of distributers working to come up with designs with air as well. If it happens that I can’t get helium anymore, I’ll have to come up with other ideas, which I’ve already been working on.”

Governor announces farm bill proposal

Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding recently announced a farm bill proposal to invest more than $24 million into the state’s agriculture industry.

“Pennsylvania has a long, proud history of agriculture, and this comprehensive package of funding opportunities and resources will help expand this important industry,” Gov. Wolf said in a press release. “The PA Farm Bill allocates $24 million in additional funding to chart a real path for a dynamic and prosperous farming economy in Pennsylvania. It’s about providing more opportunities to our farmers by creating more jobs, more income and more hope.”

“Pennsylvania’s story can’t be told without agriculture, and the PA Farm Bill will help inspire all of the chapters yet to come,” said Secretary Redding. “By further supporting the agriculture industry and investing in business operations, infrastructure, education and the workforce, we are setting the course for a future filled with increased opportunities and prosperity.

While the bill has received bipartisan support, it is still in the early stages and open to possible changes.

“There are almost two dozen different parts of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, and at this time we are looking at just the first summary,” said Bill Hoover, a member of the Huntingdon Farm Bureau. “It seems like this is an attempt to help a major part of the Pennsylvania economy, … (and) maintaining a strong Pennsylvanian agriculture (industry) is important to all Pennsylvanians, not just farmers.”

He added, “The problem now is the economic reality of low prices and high input costs of running a farm. Until the supply and demand of agriculture commodities are more in line, and international trade programs become more stable, it will remain difficult for established farmers to be profitable. That same situation makes it almost impossible for a beginning farmer to succeed without help.”

Several parts of the proposed bill contain assistance for those already in the agricultural industry. One way is through the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center, which will serve as a resource for farmers to create business plans, transitions plans, or succession plans to ensure their business’s success.

The bill also offers assistance in bringing new farmers into the industry by offering a realty transfer tax exemption for the transfer of preserved farmland to a qualified beginning farmer. Preserved farmland is land that can only be used for agricultural purposes.

Hoover explained this could be a help to some beginning farmers.

“This will be a small help to beginning farmers on their ability to get started farming (because they will) not have the transfer tax that needs to be paid when they buy a farm,” Hoover said. “That is a cost that is either paid when the farm is purchased, or (when it is) financed and is an added cost of years. But the reality is most farms are not preserved farms, and that means that most beginning farmers would not receive any benefit from this, just the new farmers the are buying a farm that has been enrolled in the farmland preservation program.”

The bill also proposes the creation of a conservation excellence grant program, which will offer financial and technical assistance to farmers to install and implement best management practices. Also in the bill is an expansion of the allowable width on roads for machinery such as farm tractors and combines, proposing to increase the width from 16 feet to 18 feet.

Another part of the bill is the Pennsylvania Rapid Response Disaster Readiness account, funded at $5 million, to “allow for a quick response to agricultural disasters … such as Spotted Lanternfly or Avian Influenza; or providing an immediate response to foodborne illness,” according to the press release.

“Improving the capability of responding to threats to our nation’s safe, affordable, and abundant food, fuel and fiber supply is important,” said Hoover. “It should be noted that even though (these) programs … are important to farmers, it is important for all consumers to protect our food supply.”

Another part of the bill is providing more awareness and interest in agriculture for the next generation, as nearly 75,000 job vacancies will occur over the next 10 years in the agriculture and food industries, according to the press release. Most of this promotion will occur through youth programs, such as 4-H and other organizations, used to “help increase knowledge and awareness of agricultural issues within the commonwealth.”

Hoover explained he sees many students interested in agricultural jobs and such promotion can only help that interest.

“The younger generation is very interested in agriculture,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean they are all interested in growing corn and milking cows. Growing corn and milking cows is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the number of jobs and careers available in agriculture. For every farmer in the field, there are many people backing them up such as equipment suppliers, plant geneticists, soil scientists and the list goes on.”

The bill proposal also hopes to help farmers by incentivizing butchers to get federally inspected. The bill proposal provides funds to “encourage access to new and expanded markets for small or new producers by reimbursing federal meat inspection costs and subsidizing the first-time purchase of equipment needed for federal compliance.”

Joe Brenneman, owner of Brenneman’s Meat Market, said this could be a help to starting butchers.

“It would make it better for the guys starting out,” Brenneman said. “(Being USDA certified) can be very costly because machinery is very expensive, and it has to comply with federal standards.”

The full farm bill proposal can be found on Gov. Wolf’s website at

Jesse can be reached at