MD town faces tough times

A month after Ivan's remnants drenched Mt. Savage, residents are still trying to get help.

BY HEATHER MOYER | MT. SAVAGE, Md. | October 20, 2004

"Some residents are still getting water from a garden hose."

—Rev. Richard Broome

One month after Hurricane Ivan's remnants drenched the tiny western Maryland town of Mt. Savage, residents are still trying to get the help they need.

Heavy rains and flooding affected over 160 homes, according to Allegany County Emergency Services Director Dick Devore, and some 25 to 30 suffered major damage.

On Tuesday, the county was notified it didn't quality for a federal disaster declaration, leaving many wondering where much-needed repair and rebuild funds will come from.

Devore said the county is hoping the Small Business Administration will soon confirm that it will offer low-interest loans to flood families, but beyond that - all the relief thus far has fallen to nonprofits.

Enter the Rev. Richard Broome of Mt. Savage United Methodist Church (MSUMC). Along with the other churches in Mt. Savage, Broome is working to help meet the needs of the families. He appealed to his district of the United Methodist Church for relief funds. So far, when combined with the appeal from the local fire department, the coalition has raised $13,000.

"But that's already about spent," said Broome. "The main cry right now is for furnaces, and those are very expensive."

Broome said two days of rain forced the creek in the center of town out of its banks and into homes. Many folks not only had basements full of water, but also had water into their first floors. Most of the families did not have flood insurance.

With significant help from The Salvation Army, Broome said he has been distributing donated goods and pointing people to where they might receive what they need. Local stores are also pitching in what they can, and Sears donated several hot water tanks. Broome added that the United Way is also expected to send in gift certificates at a later date.

Yet considerably more help is needed.

"It's pretty sad. Basically western Maryland had nothing in place for this type of situation, but they should have."

The members of MSUMC and the other local churches are helping remove mud from homes, but many of the other churches do not have the same resources as MSUMC. And some needs are beyond what all the local congregations can offer. "A lot of this is calling for skilled labor," explained Broome, MSUMC's pastor for 14 years. "Some residents are still getting water from a garden hose at this point.

"The entire scope of all this is still to be seen. We haven't been able to minister to everyone. We are trying to meet the needs quickly, but cannot do it completely. Right now we're trying to help those who are freezing."

Mold is starting to grow as well. The local fire department is helping to drain residents' basements, yet Broome said those who live in areas inaccessible to the trucks do not have many other options.

"It's overwhelming for these families. The kids are stressed out as well. Some families are coming in and saying their kids lost all their school supplies - I mean, people are bawling in front of me. And I'm afraid to do a lot of promising, I'm not sure what's next. I'm just trying to keep people updated."

Devore said the county has held two public meetings to help residents voice their needs. One comment heard from several residents is the urge to dredge the streams by their homes so that the flooding does not happen again. Devore said representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment attended one of the meetings in order to answer the questions about dredging - most of which is prohibited if done by the public.

"It's understandable, I mean, we can't simply have people putting heavy equipment into the stream in order to move rocks - that could just make it worse downstream. There are regulations for this," explained Devore. He added that the county is taking an active role in stream restoration, though.

"People are frustrated, but I think they understand the county's situation."

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