Raging floodwaters leave towns ravaged
(New York -WABC, June 29, 2006) (WABC) -- It's being called the worst flooding the east has seen in decades. More than 200,000 people are waiting for flood waters to recede so they can return home. The flooding in New York is now blamed for at least four deaths and $100 million in damage.
States of emergency remain in New York and New Jersey and FEMA is expected to tour upstate New York in the next two days.
Levees around vulnerable Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania held against the swollen Susquehanna River on Thursday, ending an evacuation order for 200,000, but other towns anxiously watched as rivers approached record crests that threatened to extend the misery from flooding that already has killed at least 13 people.
Emergency officials kept a close eye on the Susquehanna early Thursday, but said conditions were improving and that a recently improved levee system was holding back floodwaters. The river crested at just over 34 feet, below expectations and well shy of the top of the 41-foot floodwall.
New Jersey Gov. John Corzine took a 75-minute helicopter tour of the Delaware River communities Thursday morning, from Trenton to Sussex County, and said concentrated damage was not as dire as feared.
Corzine declared a statewide emergency Wednesday night as floodwaters rose in town after town along the upper Delaware River. A near-record crest was expected to sweep down the river from north to south.
Gov. Jon Corzine: "We want to be a helping hand, we want to make sure that they're protected, people have evacuated, responded appropriately and they're doing the things that need to be done. We're going to support them in their recovery."
Corzine says about 1,800 homes that are flooded will need to be inspected and utilities checked before residents can begin cleaning up the muck and mold. Corzine will seek financial aid from Washington. It's too soon to estimate the damage.
The governor says after three consecutive years with major floods, he'll be looking closely at recommendations from a flood task force formed last year.
State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes warned evacuated residents not to return home.
Rick Fuentes, State Police Superintendent: "The sun is shining but the waters are still high. The Delaware is raging. It will get better, but it will not get better today."
National Weather Service meteorologist Anthony Gigi said the Delaware was cresting Thursday morning in Phillipsburg at a bit over 36 feet, more than 14 feet over flood stage.
The crest was expected later in the day in Trenton at around 25.5 feet. That would make it the fourth-worst recorded flood in the city, though less severe than the 28 feet or so that forecasters were expecting early Wednesday.
There are also deep concerns in Trenton about the drinking water supply. The filtration plant is turned off, with just 36 hours left in reserve, just one more headache for people forced out of their homes.
But unlike some of the surrounding states, New Jersey officials report that there are no injuries and no deaths related to this flooding.
More rain also was expected Thursday in New York state. By Thursday morning, nearly 3,000 people were staying in emergency shelters, according to Dennis Michalski of the State Emergency Management Office.
State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is also investigating complaints of price gouging at upstate hotels located in areas hit by this week's flooding.
Spitzer's office says the complaints involve one company in Broome County's Johnson City and another in Oneonta. According to the complaints, they hotels were charging excessive room rates.
The reports claim the high prices were charged last night, the same day flooding closed roads and bridges in the Binghamton area.
Spitzer has issued an advisory for New Yorkers to report spikes in prices for lodging, food, water, fuel, towing and other services.
The rains, which began over the weekend, have been blamed for five deaths in Pennsylvania, four deaths in Maryland, one in Virginia and three in New York.
New York State Emergency Management Office Director John Gibb and state Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello want to remind New Yorkers living in flood and rain-ravaged areas to take all necessary precautions to protect their health and safety.
Homeowners cleaning up after flooding should remember:
Sixty four people are in shelters. There are no known injuries and it appears that the individuals and areas damaged by the ongoing flooding are almost identical of those that were impacted when the Delaware flooded last year. The entire state is under state of emergency.
The city is still trying to persuade about 50 holdouts in the Glen Afton neighborhood to leave. Nonessential state workers were told to stay home today. The statehouse is open, although its flood-prone parking garage is shut.
The county will likely open an emergency animal shelter today. Tolls were suspended until 10:00 a.m. today on the four southernmost Delaware River toll bridges in order to ease traffic congestion.
Elsewhere in Warren County, more than 1,300 residents in seven river towns were expected to evacuate. States of emergency have been declared in Phillipsburg, Belvidere, and the townships of Pohatcong, Lopatcong, Knowlton, White, Harmony and Hardwick.
Shelters that were set up at the Phillipsburg Middle School and Harmony Township Volunteer Fire Co. were sparsely attended, as resilient riverfront residents mostly made arrangements to stay with relatives or friends on higher ground.
Gov. Corzine flew in to Phillipsburg by helicopter this morning to survey the region's flood damage. After landing in a baseball field near the municipal building, Corzine drove through town into Union Square. His visit lasted less than 30 minutes, but officials said they appreciated that the governor took time out of his schedule to see the flooding personally. Corzine may revisit the town tomorrow.
Families have been ordered to evacuate river towns of Frenchtown, Stockton and Lambertville. The canal wall in Stockton has again breached, but this time south of the bridge. Hunterdon County Emergency Management reports homes in the borough have flooded, but the number so far seems fewer than the April 2005 flood.
Milford's Mayor said residents in about 150 homes in low-lying sections of the borough were told they may need to evacuate. The Red Cross of Central New Jersey opened a shelter at the Delaware Fire Hall, at 761 Route 523 in Sergeantsville section of Delaware Township. Three vehicles and one boat were rescued from flash flooding.
New York State Thruway Interchange One is closed in Port Jervis. Some 500 Port Jervis evacuees who fled their homes in the face of rising flood waters remained at the Port Jervis High School emergency shelter this morning. By 7:00 a.m., city police had reopened traffic to the city's West End, another low-lying section. But by 8:45 a.m., the Mid-Delaware Bridge between Matamoras and Port Jervis was still closed, and Port Jervis was still inaccessible from Exit 1 on Interstate 84.
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