Hundreds flee in Philly

Flooding in the western suburbs of Philadelphia forced the evacuation of hundreds of people Monday morning.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | PHILADELPHIA | September 15, 2003



"We had several people who got stuck in fast moving water and had to be rescued."

—Patty Mains


Flooding in the western suburbs of Philadelphia forced the evacuation of hundreds of people Monday morning, said Patty Mains, a spokeswoman for the Chester County Department of Emergency Services. About eight inches of rain fell between Sunday night and Monday morning, leading to the shutdown of several area roads as well as the closure of many local schools and businesses.

Mains said that about 200 people were evacuated from the town of Avondale, and another 25 to 30 people from Downingtown. Most of the flooding occurred along Brandywine Creek and its tributaries.

"We had several people who got stuck in fast moving water and had to be rescued," she said, "but there were no injuries."

Among those rescued, Mains said, were a mother and child who had been swept away by flood water. The mother, still clutching her child, managed to catch hold of a tree branch until rescue workers were able to bring them to safety, according to Mains.

The extent of property damage was not known Monday afternoon, but there were indications that the flooding could get worse Monday night, as heavy rain continued to fall.

About 46,000 residents lost power overnight, and more than 13,000 were still without electricity Monday, according to PECO Energy.

The American Red Cross had one shelter set up Monday afternoon at Avongrove High School, said Jeff Brodeur, a Red Cross spokesman. Brodeur said about 70 people, many of them Hispanic, were staying at the shelter, and nearly all of them had been evacuated from two nearby apartment buildings. The evacuees would not likely return home Monday night, he said.

"From what I understand the water is still up to the ceilings of the apartments on the first floor," Brodeur said.

Another shelter was set up at Downingtown Middle School Monday night and shut down Tuesday morning, said Omoiye Kenney, a Red Cross spokeswoman. The Avondale shelter, however, would likely remain open until Wednesday.

"Right now we're preparing for whatever might happen with Hurricane Isabel," Kenney said.

The Salvation Army was also working closely with the Red Cross in providing damage assessments, said Robert Myers, the emergency disaster director for the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division of the Salvation Army.

"The water came up fast and went down fast. so there's not a lot of residual effects," Myers said. "Right now it seems that the affected area, residence-wise, is not that badly effected."

More business appeared to have incurred damage than homes, he said, and Salvation Army volunteers would distribute cleaning kits to both business and homeowners throughout the flooded areas on Wednesday. Volunteers were also scheduled to distribute food and cash vouchers Wednesday.


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