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Help finally set in CA lake flood

BY PJ HELLER | CLEAR LAKE, CA | August 27, 1998

CLEAR LAKE, CA (August 27, 1998) -- Six months after rain-swollen Clear Lake inundated homes in Lake County in

northern California -- causing what one official said was the worst

flooding in 90 years -- interfaith relief efforts are about to get under

way to repair damaged homes.

The winter storms caused the largest natural lake in California to overflow

its banks, shutting roads, damaging homes and businesses and forcing the

evacuation of several hundred residents. The storms also created the threat

of landslides, prompting county officials to raze one abandoned hillside

home during the February rain storms, fearing it would slide down the

hillside onto a highway below.

An estimated $12 million in damage was done to public and private property.

Some 1,200 homes were affected, according to officials.

That figure, however, could go even higher, according to Caroline

Constable, director of the emergency services office for Lake County. She

said some of the damage to foundations and walls from sitting water is just

now being discovered. And she said many residents who maintain summer homes

in the area may not even be aware of damage to their residences because

they have yet to return.

She said she believed only a few homeowners had flood insurance to cover

the damage to their homes.

The county has requested federal disaster assistance.

To help residents, various faith-based organizations in the area created a

Faith in Action Team (FIAT). Churches have committed $78,000 of the

anticipated $125,000 that will be needed for repairs, according to Richard

Eskes, a disaster relief consultant with Church World Service.

As part of the relief effort, five couples from the Christian Reformed

World Relief Committee (CRWRC) will rotate through the towns of Clearlake

and Lakeport and the unincorporated area every three weeks to do repair

work, according to Eunice Bowen, director of FIAT.

The first team is expected to arrive in mid-September. Work is expected to

take about six months to complete, said Bowen, who has already identified

more than 40 owner-occupied homes in need of repair or building materials.

Constable said the county has received some funds from the Federal

Emergency Management Agency to elevate about 20 homes to mitigate future

flood damage.

Bowen said that despite the repair work required in many residences and

mobile homes, most people were still living in their homes. Many of the

54,000 residents in Lake County, located about 3 1/2 hours north of San

Francisco and 25 miles inland, are retirees, Bowen said.

"Some of the conditions they are living in are pretty bad," she reported,

but added, "Most of the people are handling their day-to-day life pretty


One home on the outskirts of Clearlake still remains surrounded on several

sides by water from Borax Lake, Constable reported.

Bowen said interfaith relief efforts had been slowed by both a lack of

volunteers and the fact that many older residents in the community did not

want assistance because they felt that others were in greater need. Others,

who applied for and received FEMA monies, said they planned to do the

repair work themselves.

Residents in Lake County are no strangers to floods, either from the lake

or from nearby streams and creeks. Previous floods occurred in 1983, 1986,

1995 and again in 1997, Constable said.

She noted that county officials were still seeking out areas that were

damaged. The county used aerial photography this year to show areas

particularly prone to flooding, she said.

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