[Update] Winter and Spring Storms in year 2005

April 18, 2005

Storms have caused flooding from New York to California

As part of our ecumenical commitment, the United Church of Christ has sent $8,500 to Church World Service to assist with recovery. Below is an update from CWS on the recovery work in the States impacted by the Winter and Spring storms.

NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, ALABAMA AND FLORIDA
SITUATION:

Damage assessments continue in parts of the Northeast and South where several severe weather systems caused tornadoes, floods, hail, and high winds which affected thousands of households.

In New Jersey, at least 3,000 homes sustained damages. In Trenton, NJ, 117 houses in The Island neighborhood require new electrical systems before residents can return. Officials estimate damage from the April 2-3 storms at $50 million and are calling it "a one-hundred year storm." The governor is seeking a federal disaster declaration for some 20 counties.

The same storm system wreaked havoc in southwestern New York. Preliminary damage reports indicate 240 homes destroyed in Orange County and preliminary estimates range from 30-100 destroyed in Ulster County. Many mobile home communities were affected. In Broome County, one mobile home community is reportedly underwater.

On April 5 and 6, a dozen people were injured, one critically, due to severe thunderstorms that spawned tornadoes and flash floods across central and southern Mississippi. Preliminary damage estimates indicate 44 homes completely destroyed and at least 80 with heavy damage.

Potential for flood continues in southern Alabama, the Florida panhandle, and other parts of the south and northeast this week. Pensacola, Florida has registered 33" of rain in the last three weeks -- more than 18" above normal.

VULNERABLE COMMUNITY WATCH:

In the Trenton, NJ, area flooding affected many low-income communities including African American, Spanish speaking, and Albanian families. In Lincoln Park, NJ, many families were also flooded in September 2004. There is concern for uninsured families, elderly, and households with young children that will require temporary housing assistance.

RESPONSE:

CWS Emergency Response Program Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison (DRRL) Joann Hale (member of the United Church of Christ) is monitoring incoming assessment information from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York and is consulting with members of the religious community and emergency management officials about response needs. New Jersey Interfaith Partnership, a statewide Interfaith that formed following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, will respond to this disaster.

DRRL Lesli Remaly (member of the United Church of Christ) is monitoring assessment information from state and local emergency management personnel, the American Red Cross, and faith-based organizations in Mississippi. DRRL Art Jackson will be on-site in affected areas of Mississippi in mid-April. Jackson will be conducting assessments of the impact, connecting with existing recovery groups CWS has supported in recent years, and will also meet community leadership in newly affected areas to identify their recovery needs. Jackson may also conduct assessments in Alabama, near the Mississippi border, where tornadoes struck in the town of Aliceville.

DRRL Tim Johnson is assessing flood impact in southern Alabama as result of ongoing severe weather and tornadoes. A shipment of 500 "Gift of the Heart" Clean-up Buckets has been sent to Baldwin County Long Term Recovery Committee, a group that CWS has assisted since September 2004 following Hurricane Ivan.

OHIO SITUATION:

In January and February 2005, periods of heavy rain and rapid snowmelt caused severe flooding and mudslides that caused nine fatalities and affected 1,200 homes throughout the central, eastern and southern portion of the Ohio. Forty homes were completely destroyed and 200 more require significant repair needs. Damage was concentrated in areas along the Ohio River and the many creeks, rivers, and streams in the region.

Fifty-six of the state's 88 counties are eligible for state cleanup assistance. Twenty-three counties are eligible for 'Individual Assistance' and residents are eligible to register with FEMA for financial assistance to help repair their homes. Some of the affected communities have been flooded five times in the past 12 months, with the most recent floods taking place as a part of the Hurricane Ivan destructive path.

VULNERABLE COMMUNITY WATCH:

Many families, including several elderly households and families with young children are underinsured and have little resources for recovery. Several mobile home communities in Washington County were closed and at least 100 residents are still displaced.
In hard-hit Athens County, 20 structures in the town of Trimble cannot be repaired until elevation is done. Sixty-five percent of the workforce in the area is unemployed. More than 100 families in the county have moved away since May 2004, causing local businesses to struggle as well.

RESPONSE:

Bonnie Vollmering, Church World Service Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison, was on-site in early March, and will return for additional support to the organization of long-term recovery interfaiths in affected areas of Ohio. In March, Vollmering worked with groups in Athens, Belmont, and Washington counties -- three of the hardest hit areas of the disaster, areas that are also still in relief and response from last fall's torrential rainfall as a result of Hurricane Ivan's path into the northeast.

"In Athens County alone, approximately 130 unmet needs cases have been identified," reported Vollmering. "Families in the region are stretched thin, many have suffered repetitive losses in such a short period, many of them are afraid to rebuild."

An April 14 meeting in Athens County will begin the training and organizing there. Meetings in other counties and with Southeast Ohio Disaster Recovery Network will be taking place the second week of April.

CALIFORNIA SITUATION:

The second wettest rain season on record in southern California, so far has caused more than thirty fatalities, extensive flooding and mudslides, sinkholes and infrastructure damage throughout the region.

Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Kern, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Riverside counties all received federal disaster declarations and residents are eligible to register with FEMA for assistance. In all, some 1,200 homes were affected.

VULNERABLE COMMUNITY WATCH:

In Ventura County, the faith community is working to identify and assess the needs of as many as 10,000 affected farm workers and their families. Many of these families have lost their jobs and no unemployment assistance is available for this disaster. A large number of the affected families are Spanish-speaking.

Over-saturated due to excessive rain and weakened by two-years of extensive wildfires, the land in parts of the region is extremely unsafe -- vulnerable to landslides and sinkholes. Many destroyed and badly damaged homes may not be able to be rebuilt in these areas. This will likely cause challenges and frustrations for many families.

RESPONSE:

Joann Hale (member of the United Church of Christ), CWS Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison was deployed to the affected region of southern California March 12 - 24, to assist faith community organizing of recovery infrastructure in Ventura County and meet with recovery groups CWS supported following the 2004 Wildfires who will expand their work to include the current disaster.

Hale reports strong participation of CWS member denominations in Ventura County, which has established its first long-term recovery group called "Rebuild Ventura County". Hale also worked with groups in Los Angeles County faced with the task of identifying and addressing the needs of disaster-affected families in a "city so large and so spread out." "These groups continue to require new resources to address the long-term needs of families affected by these floods and mudslides," Hale says.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

1. Pray for people who live in communities affected by severe storms.

2. To help those affected by disasters you may, send gifts made out to your UCC Conference and marked in the memo portion "Emergency USA" to the Conference Office with a note asking them to send the gifts to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources; Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

OR

3. Send gifts, made out to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Emergency USA" to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources; Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

OR

4. Make a secure on-line donation now to Emergency USA.

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