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Response to floods ready in Appalachia

BY JOSHUA LEWIS | PORTSMOUTH, OH | April 3, 2000

PORTSMOUTH, OH (April 3, 2000) -- Heavy rainfall early Monday triggered

more flooding in the Appalachian foothills in the same areas flash

floods had devastated in February.

But earlier flooding has left a legacy of groups that are more prepared

to respond than before.

One such group is the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)

sponsored by Scioto Christian Ministry, a countywide interfaith service

organization.

RSVP volunteers aided in the recovery from flooding that caught

residents by surprise.

Water rose fast in these foothills of the Appalachian Mountains nestled

on the Ohio River. More moderate rains had already saturated the ground

by the time heavier rains began on Feb. 18 and continued steadily

through the weekend, said RSVP Director Vicki Daily.

"It's our creeks and our little streams that really pick up all the rain

off these hills," said Max Behrer, RSVP volunteer. "All the water washes

down off these hills into these little creeks and before people know it,

they've got a small river in their backyard."

Underground creeks within the hills exacerbate the problem as well,

Daily said.

More than 175 families -- some 500 people -- were affected by February's

flooding, and property damage exceeded $1 million in the federally

declared disaster. One death was attributed to the flooding.

While 'stick-built' homes suffered minor damage, Behrer said,

floodwaters ruined many mobile homes, filling some with four feet of

water and floating others down hillsides, jumbling furniture, and

leaving behind a thick muck of mud and debris on countertops and floors.

In one ravine, telltale debris was snagged in tree limbs 15-20 feet

above the normal level of the creek bed, he said.

RSVP volunteers helped form the three to four two-person teams that were

in the field assessing damages immediately after the flood, Behrer said.

In fact, many area agencies that responded to the flooding have begun

the process of forming a Scioto County Voluntary Organizations Active in

Disaster (VOAD).

Plans are underway to conduct disaster preparedness and mitigation

activities this spring and summer.

The agencies have a responsibility to help people prepare for disaster,

Harris said.

"The main goal of RSVP is to place volunteers who are 55 years or older

in agencies or other nonprofits to meet community needs, and I can't

think of any more of a community need than to help in a disaster,"

Daily said.

"We are going to be ready, because we want to be prepared for the next

one. We want to meet those unmet needs, once FEMA (Federal Emergency

Management Agency) and Red Cross (relief) is completed," she said.

Several families have yet to complete their FEMA and Small Business

Administration (SBA) relief applications.

The Salvation Army and Catholic Social Services (CSS) are members of the

fledgling VOAD and were also active in the recent response, providing

clothing, food, furniture, cleaning supplies, and other immediate

necessities.

CSS also helped survivors with doctor visits and medication, as well as

counseling for people having emotional difficulties coping with their

loss, said Barbara McKenzie, director of Catholic Social Services for

southern Ohio and northern Kentucky.

CSS has completed most of its response effort.

"There's a few people that still have some loose ends to tie up, that

are doing repairs and the repairs might run a little more than they

think they're going to, and then we will have some funding that we can

help them with that," she said.

Once people had gotten their FEMA funds, the Salvation Army helped pick

up the slack, said Captain John Fox.

His organization also gave people vouchers to replace their carpeting

and for apartment rent while they were still displaced.

"We're working together with all of the agencies to figure out what we

can help with without doubling everything over. I think that's a great

way to do it, when everybody's working together so that you're not

duplicating services. You can take care of more people that way," he said.

The VOAD will enable CSS and other area response organizations to

collaborate more effectively, McKenzie said.

"We'll be ready when something does happen, we can jump right in and

give people assistance right from the very beginning."

Updated April 5, 2000


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