EDS battles ‘catastrophic’ flooding
By Robert Mitchell
The rain keeps coming and The Salvation Army continues to help where needed as “catastrophic” flooding hit several states in the USA Eastern Territory in the last week.
“We’re used to dealing with flooding,” said Robert Myers III, the territory’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) coordinator. “We deal with it on an annual basis in our territory, but the impacts of this particular flood are right up there with some of the most severe we have seen, particularly in the Vermont area.
“Many of these folks have just in the last four or five years recovered from the 2011 storms and now find themselves right back to dealing with catastrophic flood damage to their homes and businesses.”
The bad news is that more rain is in the forecast this week that could hamper ongoing relief efforts.
Myers said The Salvation Army’s efforts thus far have mostly focused on feeding shelter residents and others cleaning up their homes from the storm damage and flooding. The Salvation Army has now provided more than 1,400 cleanup kits, along with cleaning and hygiene supplies in many areas.
The flooding in Vermont was worse than 2011’s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee for the area, Myers said.
“That was a historic flood for many of the communities and many of those same communities were impacted this time around and many of them actually saw higher impacts than they saw in 2011,” he said. “We’re anticipating it’s going to be a long road to recovery in a lot of these communities, but we’ll be getting a gauge of some of those long-term impacts as we push out into those areas hardest hit this week.
“Certainly we’ve had floods with more population impacted, but some of the buildings had water up to the second floor of homes.”
One of the residents helped by The Salvation Army in Barre, Vt., was Nancy Davis, who made her way to the second floor of her apartment building to escape the water and save her pets.
“The water rose up and went into all the ground-floor apartments. It was scary and very different,” she told Salvation Army volunteer Michael Baldelli. “I won’t leave my pets. They’re my family.”
Davis was grateful for The Salvation Army’s help.
“Just being there and being a support and being friendly, it makes a world of difference,” she said.
Meanwhile, The Salvation Army’s thrift store in Barre filled with water to the ceiling of the first floor, Myers said. The basement of the corps building sustained damage as the area saw 10 inches of rain in a six-hour period, resulting in flash flooding and a rise in streams and rivers. Another building The Salvation Army owns in Barre was also damaged.
Major Keith Jache, the corps officer in Barre, said four Salvation Army canteens from the Massachusetts and Northern New England divisions are in town to help.
“The flooding is very widespread,” he said, noting that the corps is reaching out beyond Barre. “We’re going to more remote areas.”
Jache said The Salvation Army will start offering social services soon to help beyond giving away cleanup kits and gift cards. The Barre Corps has also been serving hundreds of meals at a local shelter with Salvation Army personnel offering emotional and spiritual care.
While Vermont has garnered most of the attention, EDS has also responded in upstate New York (Orange County in the Hudson Valley) and Eastern Pennsylvania. Here is an update from the divisions:
Northern New England:
- Vermont has experienced catastrophic, nearly statewide flooding, with numerous cities and towns still underwater. Several Salvation Army personnel are on the ground, along with canteens.
Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware:
- Salvation Army provided services in the Berks County region. Divisional EDS supported the Reading Corps with cleanup kits and other resources. The Boyertown canteen was deployed supporting feeding at a shelter location and two additional areas. EDS were also in Bucks County. Myers said though the impacts were significant, “things are winding down pretty well and we’re hoping we’ll be shifting from response to recovery in eastern Pennsylvania soon.”
- Significant flooding in Canandaigua and the corps is engaged locally in feeding and distributing cleanup kits. EDS closely monitoring north of Albany into Saratoga Springs and points along the Vermont boarder. Myers said The Salvation Army will distribute gift cards as the effort transitions to recovery.
Greater New York:
- The main flooding occurred in Orange County in the Hudson Valley. Myers said EDS is communicating with the county to determine when the hardest hit areas may be accessible.
- Assessing some impacted areas of North Adams. The impacts appear minimal and mainly localized. EDS continues to monitor as tributary runoffs from Vermont could lead to more flooding.