Weekend storms flood NE towns

BY SUSAN KIM | Northeastern U.S. | July 17, 2000


Towns in Vermont and New York were hit particularly hard by storms that stretched from Maine to North Carolina over the weekend.

In Vermont, storms caused at least $1.5 million in damage, said Duncan Higgins, deputy director for emergency management. "The damage was most

severe in southern Vermont. An Emergency Operations Center is open and still gathering data. Both businesses and residences sustained damage," he said.

Three American Red Cross shelters were open, with all three able to close by Monday as residents were able to return to their homes.

Columbia County in eastern New York was also hit with flooding over the weekend and into Monday, according to local emergency management officials.

The towns of Chatham, Austerlitz, and Canaan sustained road damage, washed-out bridges, and residential damage. "We are still surveying damages," said

Joanne Dwy, director of the Columbia County Emergency Management Office. "We do have residential damage but do not yet know the extent."

Most rivers in the state crested at 6 a.m. Monday morning, added Mark Spiezio, deputy director of public safety for Renffelaer County, also in eastern New

York. "Rivers are still at the flood stage. The rain stopped at about 3 a.m. Monday morning. My concern is that there are still small tributaries running off

and they are predicting rainfall Monday night. Everything is so saturated."

Parts of New York have at record or near-record rainfall every month since March, he added.

New Jersey also experienced heavy rainfall over the weekend.

"Volunteer fire departments have been working all weekend pumping out basements," added Dennis Michalski, public information officer for the New York

Office of Emergency Management.

New England also experienced localized flooding, with heavy rainfall particularly in Vermont. In Maine, emergency management officials reported no

damage -- except to their own main headquarters. "Our roof was being fixed and we had several offices flooded out," said Lynette Miller, public information

officer.

Further south, North Carolina dodged the storm bullet -- although damaging hail was reported in some areas. Some low-lying flooding was reported but

that is considered normal for that area, said Tom Ditt, public information officer for the North Carolina State Office of Emergency Management. "These are

areas that flood on a traditional and regular basis," he said. "We had flooding around highways, and on some secondary roads."

Elsewhere, in eastern Colorado, locally heavy rains, gusty winds, hail, and funnel clouds in evidence on Monday morning.

Other states saw the weekend rainfall as welcome relief to dry conditions. "We had an extremely wet June," said Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma

Department of Civil Emergency Management. "That helped alleviate some of the drought conditions."

Iowa also welcomed some rainfall to keep soil moisture at a healthy level for crops. "Agriculturally, we're looking better now overall. We were -- and still

are -- worried about drought," said Dave Miller, chief of staff for the Iowa Office of Emergency Management. "But July was a good month for rainfall and it's

also a crucial month for corn pollination."

The Iowa Drought Advisory Council will meet on Wednesday, he added.

The state of Iowa Governor declared Allamakee, Howard, and Winneshiek counties -- all in the northeast region of the state -- disaster areas as a result of

severe storms and flooding that pounded towns and farms on May 31. Destruction and damages to property included residences, businesses, public

infrastructure, and agriculture. Local officials are still clearing debris, making repairs to roadways, and making other infrastructure repairs.

Some farmers reported damages to out buildings, crops, terraces, and fences.

Additional rainfall was also reported in Minnesota, making recovery more difficult for those flooded out last week. Damage estimates in Dakota County

approached 1,000 homes as recovery went on this week.

Most of the destruction occurred in Eagan, where some 860 homes sustained flood damage, including 200 classified with major damage. Another 100 homes

Burnsville and Apple Valley also flooded. Residents were still combing through ruined belongings and mucking out basements this week.

Initial estimates place 90 percent of the damage as uninsured since Eagan is not in a flood plain, said Perri Graham, a Church World Service disaster resource

consultant based in Minnesota.

While most flooding was confined to basements, some 20 homes experienced up to three feet of first-floor water. The Red Cross provided shelter for those

families and is still helping to meet immediate needs this week.

Graham, after touring flooded neighborhoods, met with pastors on Monday to help coordinate formation of an interfaith recovery committee to assist in

helping survivors with long-term needs. "For many of them, this is the first time they have dealt with a disaster in their community," said Graham.

Salvation Army crews fed survivors and workers and Nechama, a Jewish disaster relief organization, sent three semi-trailers of generators, pumps and

other equipment to help clean up. Other faith-based groups also are expected to aid in disaster recovery.

More good news for Dakota County arrived last week in the form of a federal disaster declaration, which could ease the economic impact on survivors.

The challenge for emergency response officials is determining how much damage occurred, said David Gisch, Dakota County emergency management

director. "With a flood of this nature, you can't see what basements have been damaged," he said, adding that door-to-door assessments are providing

officials with better numbers.

Over the next month, Gisch expects that debris will be cleared away and roads repaired. For residents needing home repair, authorities recommend getting

several estimates and double-checking with the insurance company on coverage. Because some damage was caused when sewers backed up into

basements, Gisch said it is unclear what damage is and is not insured.

Flooding began July 8 when early-morning thunderstorms dumped nearly seven inches of water in Eagan, followed by another 2.5-inch downpour the next

morning.


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