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Weekend storm blasts states in Eastern U.S.

Stores evacuated, roofs collapsed and homes flooded.

BY DISASTER NEWS NETWORK | BALTIMORE | February 22, 2003

Stores were evacuated, roofs collapsed, homes flooded and residents of the Middle Atlantic States piled sandbags Saturday as they coped with heavy rains and melting snow.

While, some southern states, including Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virgina were already dealing with flood damage, flash flood warnings were posted Saturday in large parts of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Only minor injuries were reported when the roof of a toy store in Landover, MD. calllapsed Saturday. Rapidly melting snow from last week's record storms, combined with more than two inches of rain, was blamed for the collapse. A number of other stores and at least two shopping centers in the Washington, DC area were closed Saturday due to roof or water damage.

In Kentucky, Ray Bowman, spokesperson for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said, "preliminary assessments indicate that Pike County was the hardest hit eastern Kentucky county with about $5 million in damage to homes, roads and bridges."

According to emergency managers, 25 shelters were opened in 22 Kentucky counties. By mid-day Saturday, the American Red Cross had served more than 14,000 meals. Canteens from the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Men provided food in nine Kentucky counties.

In Tennessee, Knox, Claiborne and Rhea counties were hardest hit, according to preliminary damage assessments. Parts of the state received more than five inches of rain in less than two days.

West Virginia saw flood damage in Cabell, Kanawha, Lincoln, Mingo and Wayne counties.

Virginia emergency management officials were so concerned over flooding they warned residents of Virginia's Shenendoah Valley and northern mountains to get to higher ground Thursday.

Church World Service (CWS) personnel were monitoring conditions in various states by making contacts with the faith community and with emergency management officials. CWS is prepared to help respond if people's needs overwhelm local resources.

Philadelphia girded for serious flooding Saturday night and Harrisburg, PA, prepared pumps, boats, and sandbags as the Susquehanna River rose. That community received 21 inches of snow last weekend, and city crews were clearing as much snow as possible to try to avert flood damage.

The Susquehanna flooded that area in 1996 when the river rose 15 feet in one day, devastating homes and businesses.

"With all of this snow on the ground, the potential is there for serious flooding," said David M. Sanko, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. "We're hoping that the snow melts slowly, but as history has shown us over and over again, warming temperatures can lead to disaster."

In Alexandria, Va., city officials were monitoring the Potomac River's levels upstream. The city provided sandbags for home and business owners on Saturday.


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