Flooding leaves 'forgotten pockets'

BY SUSAN KIM | LANGHORNE, PA | September 23, 1999


LANGHORNE, PA (Sept. 23, 1999) - Hurricane Floyd has not only left

visible rampant destruction but also forgotten pockets in small towns

throughout the mid-Atlantic.

In this small town, when Mary Quintas finally left her house last

Thursday, the water was up to her waist. Here in lower Bucks County,

just north of Philadelphia, residents are used to minor flooding from

the nearby Neshaminy Creek.

But nothing like this. "I have flood insurance, but only for the

house, not for the contents," said Quintas. "I lost everything."

The Rev. Jim Garner said he predicts housing with be the biggest

problem in Langhorne. "I guess compared to North Carolina these are

minor situations, but here we have limited funds to help people with

housing. This town is a pocket that's been forgotten."

Countless towns throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and

Virginia are suffering similar predicaments - and some still haven't been discovered.

"On the eastern shore of Maryland, a lot of back county roads are still washed out," said Don Vandrey, spokesperson

for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Members of the Quintas family were trying to wash off some of her

possessions, but stopped when emergency officials warned them that

water could be contaminated from spilled sewage and fuel oil.

Quintas, along with other flood survivors, is living in a Holiday Inn

room provided through the American Red Cross, which also provided 15

days worth of food vouchers. Some 75 homes were flooded along the

stretch where Quintas lives. For the time being, she and her family

of six have a place to go.

But after that, "I don't know," she said. "Some people are talking

about a buy-out. But I like where I live. I like my neighbors. On the

other hand, I don't want to live through this again."

Steve Rodriguez is also living at the Holiday Inn, and remembers,

minute by minute, the night his house was ruined. "At five o'clock

the water was in my yard and on the back patio. By six o'clock it had

stopped raining but water was pouring into the basement. Then the

windows broke because of the water pressure. My freezer floated then

sank in the laundry room," he said. "And the firemen came to my front

door in boats."

Representatives from Church World Service and Presbyterian Disaster

Assistance visited Langhorne over the weekend to assess damages and

organize an interfaith response.

Today more than a dozen volunteers gathered at the Langhorne

Presbyterian Church to make lunch for flood survivors. Rachel

Suchowieski said that churches sprang to action as soon as they

realized there was unmet need.

"We just weren't aware of what we needed to do," she said. "But now

we're making and distributing food, collecting and delivering

cleaning supplies. It's been a learning process for us. Today we'll

learn what we need to do tomorrow."

Volunteer Carol Casten said that she came to help because "there are

immediate needs that aren't being met. I'll volunteer as long as it

takes."

Garner added that he organized a youth group to help people clean up

their homes, and that volunteer members were going door-to-door to

ensure nobody was forgotten.

Throughout the northern Philadelphia suburbs, some 200 homes reported

water up to the second floor, particularly in the town of Darby,

where as many as 300 people can't return to their homes.

Similar to North Carolina, rivers crested several days after the

storm ended, worsening already devastating flooding in many

communities.

For some Pennsylvanians, Hurricane Floyd was the "third strike"

because this is the third time in a matter of weeks that the

Susquehanna Basin has flooded.

The towns of North East and Crisfield in Maryland were also hard-hit,

as were communities in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

And in Franklin, Va., water remained eight feet deep in some places

today, and more homes and businesses may have to be evacuated as the

river rises again from this week's rain. Franklin's downtown section

is largely ruined, with the U.S. Post Office, auto parts store, card

shop and several other businesses still under water.

Throughout the mid-Atlantic, the rains have many officials declaring

that that drought is over. But faith-based response organizations are

still responding to farmers who have a severe hay and feed shortage

in drought-stricken areas.

Through an ecumenical effort called Family Farm Drought Response,

more than 1,500 tons of hay have been delivered to Virginia, West

Virginia, Maryland, and southeast Pennsylvania. More hay as well as

corn will be transported this month and through October.

Much of the hay and a significant portion of the trucking to

transport it have been donated, said Art Jackson, a regional disaster

response coordinator with the Christian Reformed World Relief

Committee (CRWRC). "So far we have been able to keep costs of helping

farmers amazingly low," he said.

Groups involved with that effort - and with the widespread response

to Hurricane Floyd -- include the Church of the Brethren, CRWRC,

Church World Service, Lutheran Disaster Response, Mennonite Disaster

Services, Orphan Grain Train, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and

United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Farmers as far away as Nebraska and Canada have voiced their

willingness to donate hay and grain, remembering past years when they

received similar donations from farmers in the east.

Posted September 23, 1999


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