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Ike’s impact disrupts wide area

Flooding, high winds damage homes, hundreds of thousands may be without power for weeks.

BY BOND BRUNGARD | Des Plains, IL | September 18, 2008

Across the Midwest and as far east as western Pennsylvania, the heavy winds and rain unleashed by Ike last week are still being felt.

In Des Plains, a Chicago suburb of about 56,000, more than nine inches of rain fell during a 24-hour period from early Saturday morning, Sept 13, into Sunday, Sept. 14, affecting 2,500 people, 1,700 residences and displacing about 1,000 people.

“The sewers could not keep out the downpour,” said Karen Kozenscak, a spokesperson for the City of Des Plains.

Kozenscak said that it was record rainfall for the city along the Des Plains River, which is at four-feet, about a foot below flood stage of five feet.

The heavy rainfall sent residents to shelters although few people stayed in the shelters overnight, instead they used them as a holding area before staying with friends or family members.

“They would come in, place a call for a relative,” she said.

Schools were closed in the early part of the week and some city bus routes were curtailed as the water receded. But as another weekend approaches, Kozenscak said life is getting back to normal.

“We’re in recovery mode now,” she said, “The sun is shining. It’s hard to imagine we were devastated by so much rain.”

But as it continues to dry out in Des Plains, the Salvation Army will continue to hand out clean-up kits and keep canteens open during the upcoming weekend.

Elsewhere in parts of the Midwest and western Pennsylvania, strong winds left hundreds of thousands of people without power. And some are still waiting for the juice to flow again.

Linda Hodge, a secretary at the Mason United Methodist Church in Mason, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, said she and husband stayed in a motel this week, where they could shower and live with comfort, until the power was restored to their home.

“It was just really survival,” she said, “to get back to work the next day.”

In Pittsburgh, the heavy winds started blowing through Sunday night as parishioners were leaving their bible study classes at the City Reformed Presbyterian Church. But the power outages were sporadic, said Sam Socio, the church’s assistant pastor.

“The winds were really strong,” he said. “We lost power for 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there.”

But in Beaver, northwest of Beaver near the Ohio border, Michelle Hilton’s kids did not go to school during the first part of the week while the power was being restored.

“We were really hit hard,” said Hilton, a secretary at the Beaver United Methodist Church.

The church did not lose power, and its refrigerators were open to parishioners trying to protect their perishables. But a tree did fall on home adjacent to the church’s parsonage.

In Kentucky, up to 600,000 people lost power and nearly a quarter of those were still without power as of Thursday. Some of those may be waiting for another 10-14 days for full power restoration.

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