Floods and evacuations in Mid-Atlantic

June 29, 2006

From Ohio to the East Coast, flooding impacts communities. This rain disaster has stretched into its sixth day, killing at least ten people, straining dams, and shutting down roadways.

Information from UCC Disaster Response Coordinators is beginning to arrive at the National Disaster Ministries office in Cleveland. Pennsylvania Northeast and Northern Virginia are preparing to begin cleaning out homes. Please do not send material donations! None have been requested. As information about UCC members and churches becomes available, it will be posted on this web site.

From Ohio to the Mid-Atlantic states flooding has caused damage to homes and mass evacuations. This rain disaster has stretched into its sixth day, killing at least ten people, straining dams, and shutting down roadways. Runoff and river flooding grew on Wednesday, even for areas seeing sunshine.

Northern Ohio got some of the heaviest rain and most pronounced flood damage. Flash flooding in Toledo, Norwalk and Port Clinton forced evacuations. Shelters were opened in local churches and schools in the most affected areas. In Toledo, 350 homes were affected by flooding. Nine had major damage, according to reports from Ohio emergency management. Another 400 homes were affected in Norwalk and Sandusky, with 10 sustaining major damage. In Erie County, there are 50 homes with basement flooding near Perkins Township. Forty homes have first floor flooding. County reports indicate most damage is insured. The Ohio Governor has declared a State of Emergency; FEMA officials were in Ohio to inspect damages on Wednesday.

Upstate New York is facing some of its worst flooding on record. Hundreds of people were evacuated to Binghamton University, said Don Maurer, public information officer for New York emergency management. Some reports indicated up to 15,000 people there will have evacuated on Wednesday alone as the rising Susquehanna River overtook the strees of Binghamton.

In Binghamton, Deputy Mayor Tarik Abdelazim commended residents for taking evacuation orders seriously. A state of emergency was declared there at 4 a.m. "But when most people woke up, the sun was shining," said Abdelazim in a press conference. "It looked beautiful and there appeared to be very little danger. Some residents were confused. But we were grateful that the local media then covered this, and residents realized this is a serious incident." Binghamton officials said they hoped the city's concrete flood walls would continue to hold. Ten New York counties declared states of emergency, and Gov. George Pataki activated the National Guard. Hundreds of people were evacuated from homes in the Binghamton area because of flooding on the Susquehanna and other rivers. Residents of scattered areas in the eastern part of the state were evacuated as well. "The water is still rising," said Maurer. "The rain is beginning to depart the state but we're seeing some really elevated water levels. We're beginning to get reports of damages to homes and property."

In Pennsylvania, emergency officials were concerned the Susquehanna River will crest above the 41-foot levees protecting the Wyoming Valley. Some 200,000 residents in the Wilkes-Barre area were under mandatory evacuation orders by Wednesday afternoon. Members of the National Guard were rescuing people from flooded cars and bridges. More than 500 people were staying in shelters in Susquehanna County alone.

In New Jersey, the Phillipsburg area was reporting major flooding that was still unfolding Wednesday afternoon.

In Maryland, at least 2,200 were evacuated north of Lake Needwood on the north side of Rockville as the lake rose to 25 feet above normal on Wednesday. Water was seeping through weak spots on the lake's earthen dam. If the dam breaks, some areas could be blanketed with 20 feet of water. Residents of 500 apartments and 700 homes were evacuated. Maryland emergency management officials reported they were coping with the dam emergency at the same time they are trying to assess damages from flooding earlier this week on Maryland's Eastern Shore area. "We are now going to treat this as one disaster that has lasted since last Thursday," said Ed McDonough, public information officer for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. About 50 people with pets were staying at the Montgomery County fairgrounds, said Paul Hibler, deputy director for Montgomery County Animal Services Division. "Provisions are being made to have cots delivered and food and toiletries," he said.

In Virginia, the Huntington area was estimating millions of dollars in flood damage. Emergency officials across the mid-Atlantic predicted there would be unmet needs in the wake of the record- breaking rainstorms. Assessments will not only have to wait until floodwaters recede - but geographically they are spread over an extremely wide area, explained McDonough in Maryland. "This is so much different than dealing with, say, a hurricane. These were very much hit or miss rainstorms. I predict we will need the help of voluntary agencies with ongoing recovery issues."

McDonough said he has already been receiving calls from residents struggling with damage and insurance issues. "I got a call from a woman who said her insurance company can't get to her until Tuesday. If she doesn't have flood insurance, it's not going to be a pretty sight. And this is not like a Hurricane Isabel where we have the numbers we need to declare a disaster immediately. We have 10 homes here, 20 homes there. There is damage all along smaller streams and creeks, and around some dams, and around open farm area."

How you can help

1. Pray for people who live in communities affected by floods.

2. To help those affected by disasters you may, send gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Emergency USA " with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.

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 to Emergency USA.

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