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Floods force thousands out

More than 14,000 evacuate homes in Pennsylvania, Maryland.

BY DISASTER NEWS NETWORK | PORT DEPOSIT, MD | September 20, 2004

Emergency officials evacuated hundreds of Maryland residents from their homes along the Susquehanna River Sunday night as 30 flood gates at the massive Conowingo Dam were opened. More gates were expected to be opened Monday morning.

The mayor and town council of Port Deposit declared a state of emergency Sunday night and urged residents of the north end of town to leave "for their own personal safety," said Mike Dixon, a spokesman for the Cecil County Department of Emergency Management.

National Weather Service forecasters predicted Sunday night high water caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan will cause moderate to major flooding along the Susquehanna River below the dam.

The flooding in Port Deposit is only the latest of hundreds of communities from Georgia to New York reporting floods as a result of heavy rains spawned the remmants of Hurricane Ivan Friday and Saturday.

More than 14,000 residents across the state of Pennsylvania were evacuated from their homes as the rivers rose. The American Red Cross said it had opened more than 70 shelters across the state.

Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania requested federal disaster aid Sunday for 42 of the state's 67 counties and predicted losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. President George Bush approved federal aid in 19 PA counties Sunday night.

Flooding along the Susquehanna was amongst the five worst floods recorded by the National Weather Service. Emergency managers in central Pennsylvania compared Ivan to floods from Hurricane Eloise in 1975 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972. "We've never seen anything this dramatic since Agnes," said Kathy McKenzie, an Alleghany County official.

Hundreds of homes were reported damaged in Lycoming County in northcentral PA, according to Gary S. Hutchinson, the county's director of public safety.

Members of Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomsburg, PA, went door-to-door to homes near the river Saturday helping residents move furniture to higher floors and taking some of the heavier items to the church for safekeeping. Moderate flooding was reported in that central PA town Sunday night.

Flooding struck homes and businesses near Marietta, PA in western Lancaster County, early Monday when the Susquehanna topped flood stage by more than seven feet. Flooding was also reported in other river towns including the state capital of Harrisburg.

Also on Sunday, moderate flooding was reported along the Ohio River in Wheeling, WV and residents along the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey also were forced from their homes. More than 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes in eastern Ohio due to high water.

In Western Pennsylvania, towns like Etna and Carnegie spent Sunday beginning to clean-up from flooding that devastated business and residential areas on Friday. But in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, rivers did not crest until late Sunday and were not expected to drop below flood stage until Monday or Tuesday.

In other parts of the eastern U.S., up to a foot of rain fell in North Carolina's western mountains, leaving damage in at least 16 counties, state emergency management officials reported, though they had no firm numbers of residential damage by Saturday morning. Some of the most severe damage appeared to be in Buncombe and Henderson counties. Residents there clocked winds of 60 mph and more.

Western North Carolina was hard hit by Hurricane Frances earlier this month.

In West Virginia, more than 3,000 people were evacuated and hundreds of homes damaged when flash floods and mudslides struck.

In eastern Ohio, about 1,500 residents of Belmont County were out of their homes on Saturday, and some 2,700 were told to boil their tap water, according to reports from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

At least 22 counties in Georgia reported flood damage on Friday. The Chattahoochee River, which cuts across the Atlanta metropolitan area, saw its second-highest level since the Buford Dam was built more than 40 years ago to prevent floods.

The hurricane's remnants also prompted flood warnings in 34 east and middle Tennessee counties, where forecasters had predicted up to 7 inches of rain. In the eastern Tennessee town of Spring City, floodwaters blasted through the business district, breaking out storefront windows and carrying away store merchandise.

The National Geological Survey Office in Louisville issued a landslide warning for the entire state of Kentucky, which, like many other states, had already been saturated by Tropical Storm Frances.


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