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Mid-Atlantic states submerged by Floyd

BY SUSAN KIM | PHILADELPHIA | September 18, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 18, 1999) -- Though North Carolina seems to have

suffered the most severe flooding, communities throughout the

mid-Atlantic are still urgently responding to Hurricane Floyd's

aftermath.

Helicopters continued to fly through Friday night searching for

stranded people in the northern Philadelphia suburbs, where some 200

homes have reported water up to the second floor, particularly in the

town of Darby, where 400 people were evacuated.

Many rivers in that area have yet to crest. On Thursday night,

hundreds of townspeople in Marple and Upper Providence were evacuated

because officials feared that the Springton Lake dam's spillway would

overflow and weaken the base of the dam where a trench recently was

dug for construction work.

Officials have since confirmed the dam is safe.

On Thursday night, emergency personnel had to use a front-end loader

to rescue 11 students and the driver of a school bus that ran off a

bridge in Buckingham. And in Bucks County, firefighters had to carry

more than 40 children through foot-high water from a day care center

as groundwater poured into the school.

About 1,000 houses and apartments in Southwest Philadelphia had to be

evacuated as Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek overflowed their banks,

while in Bridgeport,about 150 people were evacuated from a six-story

apartment building threatened by rising water.

And more than 4,000 people were displaced in southeastern

Pennsylvania on Friday after torrential rains sent rivers over their

banks.

In Pennsylvania, electricity remained out for 276,000 utility

customers Friday, and state officials said it could take several days

to restore all service.

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

"Just last Wednesday, Harrisburg was severely flooded - and now Floyd

hit them again," said Shirley Norman, a Church World Service (CWS)

disaster resource facilitator. "This is the third time in a matter of

weeks that the Susquehanna Basin has flooded."

From Hurricane Floyd alone, seven inches of rain fell at Philadelphia

International Airport, the biggest one-day rainfall in the city's

history, according to the National Weather Service. In West

Philadelphia, 12 inches of rain fell.

PECO Energy Co. reported that 388,000 customers lost electrical

service at some point -- the utility's third-highest storm-related

outage ever.

Countless small towns in Pennsylvania, and across Maryland, Virginia,

and Delaware, are still coming out from being essentially under water.

The towns of Crisfield and North East in Maryland were among those

essentially shut down by high water. In Crisfield, every street was

impassable Thursday night, and only about half had opened by Friday.

The majority of homes and businesses still have no power, and the

hospital operated on a generator, with the National Guard supporting

evacuation and response efforts, according to the Maryland state

police.

The town of North East had severe flooding, with most roads closed.

Most buildings were inundated with water, and evacuees huddled in the

fire station Thursday and Friday nights. The Maryland State Highway

Administration provided sand bags to protect an electrical substation

in the town.

"There were close to 100 people here on Thursday night, and we would

predict a bunch more on Wednesday night because people don't have

power," said Elaine McAllan, a firefighter who was helping evacuees.

Officials predict power will be out for that town until at least

Tuesday, and the American Red Cross and county social services

continue to provide emergency assistance. Many homes report five to

eight feet of water.

"First it started raining, and that filled some houses up, then the

creeks and rivers overflowed, and filled up even more houses," said

McAllan.

Though most roads in the town are now passable, the main bridge into

town is still damaged. "It's a good thing we started early with

evacuations," said Steve Piatelli, fire chief. "Now the next step,

after the water recedes, is to let the building inspectors take a

sweep through the town. Our first priority is ensuring that people

with disabilities can access their houses."

On Friday, some 200,000 central Marylanders were still without electricity.

Towns in low-lying shore areas of Virginia and Delaware reported

similar predicaments. Many were deluged with 11-17 inches of rain

from Hurricane Floyd.

Virginia's Hampton Roads area was particularly hard-hit, and

Interstate 64 still had six feet of standing water in places on

Wednesday.

That state's Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (VOAD) has been

responding to calls about downed trees, and the Red Cross and

Salvation Army opened shelters in the Hampton Roads area, said Robert

Ianucci, VOAD president.

In Virginia Beach, the Church of the Ascension served as one of the

area's largest shelters. Catholic Charities was also assisting

displaced people, particularly those with mental health needs.

Ianucci said VOAD partners are pooling resources to start an

information hotline staffed by volunteers.

More than 118,000 people in Portsmouth and parts of Chesapeake and

Suffolk in Virginia had no water Friday because of a flooded pumping

station. Thousands lined up at three sites for bottled drinking water.

"There is also a significant amount of road damage," pointed out Fred

Reed, a CWS disaster response consultant.

After striking the entire East Coast, Floyd left at least 34 people

dead, thousands of homes and businesses damaged and more than a

million people without electricity or water.

Posted September 18, 1999


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