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Storms worry disaster-weary South

BY SUSAN KIM | HOUSTON, TX | September 4, 2001


"There is a lot of fear that the rain will not stop."

—C.H. Van Dyke


A tornado touched down in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton late Wednesday, damaging nearly 40 homes, according to the National Weather Service.

The twister was spawned off a long line of storms that has been plaguing the South for nearly two weeks. The damage was mostly ripped roofs along with downed trees and power lines.

Residents remained concerned about flash flooding Thursday as rivers and creeks remained high even though the rain will lessen.

Many southerners worry destructive waters keep rising, reported response groups.

"There is a lot of fear that the rain will not stop," said C.H. Van Dyke, a Church World Service (CWS) disaster resource consultant (DRC) who is assisting with recovery efforts in Texas in the wake of Tropical Storm Allison. That storm, the first of the season, killed more than 20 people and caused more than $1 billion in damage in Texas alone.

Tuesday brought a line of severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall to many of the same areas Allison hit in both Texas and Louisiana.

But at least some southerners breathed a sigh of relief Thursday as Tropical Storm Erin weakened in the Atlantic.

Given the thousands of homes damaged during Allison's deluge, more rain cause grave hardship in Texas and other southern states in the throes of flood recovery, reported response groups.

"Remember -- we are just now facing the peak of the season. We still have much ahead of us," said Fred Toland, a field consultant for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Allison left a lot of anxiety in her wake, which is heightened whenever it rains, or whenever a new storms form, said Mary Anna Speller, a CWS DRC who has assisted residents in Louisiana with long-term recovery. "People are saying: 'Suppose we have a new storm? How

will we handle that?' "

Tuesday's heavy rainfall -- up to five inches in some areas -- affected a widespread area, particularly in Texas. Counties in the watch area included Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Houston, Jackson,

Liberty, Madison, Matagorda, Montgomery, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, Walker, Waller, Washington, and Wharton.

Rainfall was heaviest to the south and west of Houston, according to forecasters, who expressed concern over the saturated ground in those areas after heavy rain last week. Since saturated soil can't absorb rainfall, any heavy rain that falls could quickly run off into creeks

and streams and cause them to overflow.

Recovery efforts from Tropical Storm Allison continue even as new disaster threats occur. In the Houston area alone, the American Red Cross reported that 318 dwellings were destroyed, 13,244 had major damage, and 21,163 had minor damage.

Interfaith Disaster Recovery Assistance (IDRA) in Houston is working with the Greater Houston Interfaith Ministries on long-term recovery efforts. CWS has been assisting IDRA by offering financial support as well as the service of volunteers experienced in disaster recovery.

Louisiana, also hard-hit by Allison, has longstanding recovery groups operating in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Slidell, and Terre Bonne. In all cases, the faith community is involved, reported CWS.

Speller, who traveled to Louisiana to help some of these groups organize, said one of the most vulnerable populations affected was a large Vietnamese community in the Baton Rouge area. "I would think that, at this point, there are two major needs -- more translators and more advocacy with regard to landlords who won't repair buildings. A lot of those affected in this area were renters," she said.

In that area, a new interfaith committee, the Baton Rouge Area Recovery Group, has formed with Catholic Community Services serving as the financial umbrella.

In Terrebonne, CWS is providing financial support for a long-time interfaith committee and CWS partner, the Terrebonne Readiness and Assistance Coalition (TRAC).

In Pennsylvania, also affected by Allison, another interfaith committee has developed and is working in conjunction with the Bucks-Montgomery Center for Human Services based in Warminister, PA.


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