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Town copes with repeat flooding

Lou Donoso cannot understand why, after 40 years of living along the Delaware River, the past two years have been the worst for flooding.

BY HEATHER MOYER | RAUBSVILLE, Pa. | July 9, 2006

Lou Donoso cannot understand why, after 40 years of living along the Delaware River, the past two years have been the worst for flooding.

"These last three floods are the highest I have ever seen it," said the 85-year-old Raubsville resident, adding that the only time the water had touched his home before was when it went into his basement one flood a few decades ago. On one of the outer walls of his home are three scrawled lines and dates marking the water height of each of the last three floods.

Donoso lives in the Canal Street neighborhood of Raubsville - which is a small strip of land between the Delaware River and the Delaware Canal. His home is now again being gutted by volunteers. Donoso said he is very grateful for the volunteers since he is unable to do much work on his own anymore.

"The good Lord picked the right people for this job," he said from his back porch overlooking the Delaware. "Without them, none of this would ever get done."

Donoso was moving in and out of his house Saturday, doing what he could in between the volunteers. Noise echoed through the empty shell of his home as each inner wall was now only studs.

The Rev. William Rex, a Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) coordinator for the southeast Pennsylvania synod, is also familiar with the flood recovery around Raubsville. Rex has helped gut and repair homes along Canal Street each time the water has risen: September 2004, April 2005 and now June 2006.

"There are 20 to 30 homes along this street, and many can't get insurance anymore due to this flooding," said Rex. And the repeat flooding also gives pause to Rex and his recovery efforts. "We're looking at houses we've already rebuilt twice, so we have a lot of decisions to make."

That is not to say Rex and LDR are not committed to helping those in need. Rex is regularly checking in on neighbors to see who needs what. Volunteers showed up Saturday to help the Canal Street residents remove flooded belongings and gut homes - and more are needed.

Pat Hartley has been to the neighborhood to help after the past two floods, and she was back again Saturday to help one more time. "They need it, so I'm here," she said while prying off wallboard.

Rex noted that there's been some benefit to the tragedy of the previous two floods: it meant people were more prepared for this latest round. "There are mixed feelings about this. Some are happy they had two under their belt to be prepared for this one. We saw less trash out on the street because people had plenty of notice before the flooding started, you know, they moved things up to higher floors."

Others are discouraged, he added. "Some families want to sell, but others don't have that option. And then some will have to raise their homes, and they'll need money for that."

Back inside Donoso's home, both he and Rex joke around to lighten the mood. "You gotta do something about all this flooding, Lou," laughed Rex.

"I know, I got to set this place up near heaven, at least 10 feet maybe," replied Donoso with a big smile and laugh.

The humor then changes to some seriousness, as if to illustrate Rex's point about mixed feelings. As Donoso helped remove a door from its frame, he sighed and paused for a second. "You know, I'm 85, I can't do this anymore. I have to take a lot of breaks," he said, leaning against a bathroom sink littered with broken drywall pieces.

"I wonder what I did to deserve all this."


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