NY residents pray for drier weather

BY STEVE GUST | NEW YORK | July 14, 1998

In western New York it's been a year of ice storms, tornadoes and most

recently heavy thunderstorms. Some watch the skies and hope for the best.

Record rainfall had already struck Rochester Wednesday with 1.35 inches

compared to .99 inches set back in 1915. Buffalo, also had 1.31 inches the

same day, which broke a mark that had stood for 72 years.

Joann Hale, the regional disaster response facilitator for Church World

Service, said high waters were again causing concerns last week for

residents in several of the same communities hit by flooding late last


'In the past day there have been two deaths attributed to flood

conditions," Hale said. Trying to regroup from a late June outburst are people in the Cattaraugus County area. The Rev. Carl Chamberlain of the Collins Center United Methodist Church in Collins Center described some of the wrath the storm


"There was what meteorologists would call a 'micro-burst,'" Chamberlain

said. "It dumped about 5.5 inches in three hours. That "micro-burst,"

Chamberlain said, was 25 miles long and five miles long.

Along its path were two churches in the town of Arcade, that sustained

heavy flooding, he said. The United Methodist Church of Arcade and the

American Baptist Church were both damaged.

"The Methodist Church had serious wall damage and the basement was

completely flooded," he said. The storm also wiped out the church's charity

food pantry and the offices of the American Cancer Society, which were

housed there.

In the area of about 40,000, Chamberlain estimated that 250 people had

substantial home damage. "In the first few days it was a brilliant case of neighbor helping neighbor," Chamberlain said. "The people who weren't originally affected have gone back to normal, while the ones affected are wondering what to do."

A group of church and civic organizations from the communities of Gowanda,

Springville will be forming, Chamberlain said. That group will review

family needs on a "case by case" basis.

"I imagine the group will exist for months," Chamberlain said. "There's

probably people who have suffered heating damage in their basement and they

won't know it until they turn on their heaters this fall."

In Cattaraugus, Erie and Wyoming counties, the Healthy Community

Alliance, a state-funded rural health program and area faith groups have

joined together to assist the flood survivors in western New York.

Patricia Kota, executive director of Healthy Community Alliance, said

she felt

especially bad for the elderly, some of whom have asked for help shoveling mud

out of their basements and replacing appliances like washing machines. The

response from community members has been heartwarming, she said, but it

will probably take months to fully recover from the disaster.

Cattaraugus is one of six counties that were approved for federal disaster

aid Tuesday in a disaster declaration issued by President Clinton. Clinton,

Erie, Essex,. Wyoming and Franklin counties have been approved for aid,

according to James Lee Witt the head of the Federal Emergency Management


Funds are also available from the U.S. Small Business Administration. In

Arcade, Chamberlain said about a dozen businesses were damaged.

"Some may not rebuild," he said.

The Arcade United Methodist Church is also pondering the same fate. "Their

basement has already suffered three '100-year' floods in the past 30

years," he said. "They may decide it's not worth it."

For now the congregation is meeting with the American Baptist Church at a

United Church of Christ sanctuary.

Another church in Arcade is helping. The Hope Lutheran Church is receiving

help from LCSM World Relief. That assistance is helping the congregation

meet emergency needs of its members and the surrounding community.

The micro-burst happened only a few weeks after upper New York was struck

by tornadoes. More than 100 homes were damaged and two deaths were

attributed to the tornadoes as were an estimated 80 injuries.

Posted July 14, 1998

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