SE Pennsylvanians rebound from flooding

BY HENRY BRIER | SOUTHEAST, PA | July 12, 2001



"Neighbors are coming together, and community-wise, we are starting to do more."

—Robert Swan


Residents of Southeast Pennsylvania counties afflicted last month by remnants of Tropical Storm Allison are beginning recovery efforts thanks in part, to the establishment of an interfaith that formed Wednesday and will provide vital human services.

"These folks have it very well under control," said Shirley Norman, a Regional Disaster Facilitator for Church World Service (CWS).

Over the Father's Day weekend, Allison lashed Berks, Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Philadelphia counties with water, resulting in three of the counties being declared federal disaster areas.

Seven people total died as a result of the flooding, including six who died from an explosion in an apartment house, when a gas dryer that was not bolted to the floor floated away and became disengaged, prompting gas to permeate the room and explode, officials said.

Close to 2,000 homes were affected by flooding or sewage backup as a result of the tempest that dumped on Houston before traveling across the southeast US and hovering just north of the Chesapeake Bay.

"It kind of came and forgot to leave. It just parked and kept raining," said Elaine Barnes, a disaster response coordinator for Eastern Pennsylvania conference of the United Methodist church.

Berks, Bucks and Montgomery counties were declared federal disaster areas within days after Allison dumped more than 10 inches of water.

Residents' spirits vary because of the damage inflicted and the community response.

"I think they're very up because they see things that are coming together," said Robert Swan, director of disaster relief for American Baptist men of Pennsylvania and Delaware. "Neighbors are coming together, and community-wise, we are starting to do more."

He said floodwaters have receded, and the clean-up effort presently entails going into houses and removing mud, as well at replacing water-stained walls with new sheetrock.

He said residents are removing damp furniture, and putting them in bins that will be hauled away.

He said the responses of some residents was delayed when it came to cleaning up.

"The elderly finally realized they have to do something," Swan said.

Barnes said some spirits are down because they now are realizing the severity of the damage, and the long-term effort before them.

"They are discouraged, and they're taking a long time to get things done," Barnes said. "They are realizing the things that have been lost that they won't be able to replace. There is some anger, but they're doing pretty well."

She credited the "ecumenical cooperation" of the interfaith that recently formed, which calls itself "Bucks-Mont Interfaith Disaster Response."

The entities involved include Mennonite Disaster Services, UMCOR, Lutherans, Baptists, Catholic Charities, Presbyterians, officials said.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency also are included in the interfaith.


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