Da The New York Times del 29/06/2006
Originale su http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/29/nyregion/29flood.html?ei=5094&en...

Mid-Atlantic States Reel Under Deluge; 10 Dead

di Alan Feuer

A network of swollen rivers, heavy from days of steady rain, spilled across their banks yesterday, threatening to inundate towns and cities from Virginia to Vermont and causing thousands of evacuations along the banks of the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Two hundred thousand residents threatened by the rising Susquehanna were ordered to leave the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., area, directed by radio broadcasts to high schools, police stations and firehouses for shelter. Thousands more were evacuated from their homes in the region. At G.A.R. High School in Wilkes-Barre last night, more than 250 people, mostly elderly or infirm, were camped out on cots and on the floor. In the auditorium a platoon of the elderly nodded off in stiff fold-down seats.

Earlier in the week, Washington suffered the worst two days of rain in its history.

A two-punch combination of saturated earth and rising currents led to at least 10 deaths and reports of two houses, one with a 15-year-old girl trapped inside, set adrift. The day of devastation led the governors of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to declare emergencies across wide swaths of their states. The potential for destruction was so widespread and unpredictable that the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for eight states.

Even as the sun began to break out in parts of the Northeast, officials warned that the worst might be yet to come. Residents in parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia were cautioned that more flooding might occur today as rivers crested their banks.

The damage from the floods was still being tallied late last night, and the reports were sobering. Two truck drivers died near Sidney, N.Y., 35 miles from Binghamton, when their rigs plunged into a 50-foot-deep hole in the washed-out bed of Interstate 88, and a 15-year-old Pennsylvania boy as well as someone trying to rescue him drowned in a lake in Luzerne County, officials said.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania declared emergencies in 46 of the state's 67 counties and activated 1,000 members of the National Guard, saying the storms were "a major hardship." Entire villages in Delaware County, N.Y., were left stranded. Several people were reported missing, their fates unknown.

The storms were fiercest, Mr. Miner said, in a corridor that ran from Virginia through eastern Pennsylvania to central New York, where Binghamton received 4.05 inches of rain on Tuesday — the most in one day in the city's history.

The most intense flooding seemed to be occurring along the banks of three rivers: the Susquehanna, the Delaware and the Schuylkill. Officials said they expected the Susquehanna to crest its 41-foot floodwalls today.

In Binghamton, 3,000 people were evacuated from hospitals and homes, even as the stranded sipped cocktails on the terrace of the Holiday Inn downtown and watched the Chenango River breach its banks. Nearby, floodwaters lapped the retaining walls of the Susquehanna. Divers and boats of the New York State Police were helping the evacuees.

At the same time, the Delaware was also rising quickly, officials in New Jersey said, in part because upriver in New York and Pennsylvania, some towns and cities had opened floodgates to empty their own flooding lakes into the river.

"Believe it or not," said Col. Joseph R. Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, "they're getting even more rain than we are."

Don Maurer, spokesman for the New York State Emergency Management Office, confirmed that some upriver towns had opened their floodgates, saying it was standard procedure in a downpour.

"They're trying to minimize the release, however," he said, "because they're well aware of the impact downstream."

The Delaware was expected to crest this afternoon at 28 feet — 3 feet higher than in the severe flooding in April 2005. By last night the floods had already shut down parts of Trenton, as Gov. Jon S. Corzine ordered most state buildings to be closed through today. Six thousand people in New Jersey were evacuated, mostly in Trenton, and officials there said it was the city's worst flooding since 1955. The State House was kept open, although the main highway to the building, Route 29, was closed for several miles near downtown Trenton.

At a news conference several blocks from the river in a neighborhood called the Island, Mr. Corzine said, "We're standing on a spot that in the next 24 to 36 hours we expect to be under water."

The Schuylkill River was expected to crest in Philadelphia this morning. It flooded over its banks yesterday, closing Kelly Drive on the east side of the river, and later Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the west. Admiral Wilson Boulevard, the main road to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge into downtown Philadelphia from New Jersey, was flooded yesterday morning as well.

At the Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County, N.Y., which supplies drinking water to New York City, the water was flowing over the dam's spillway last night at 19,721 cubic feet per second, said Nicole Franzese, Delaware County's planning director. The county was one of nine in New York placed in a state of emergency by Gov. George E. Pataki.

And although much of the rain had tapered off by yesterday afternoon, the number of streams and rivers reported to be flooding continued to pile up, including the Roanoke River in Virginia and the Mohawk and Neversink Rivers in New York. Even Esopus and Rondout Creeks in New York State rose above their banks.

The overflowing Cattail Brook in Livingston Manor, N.Y., suddenly swept one house from its foundation and, with the 15-year-old girl inside, dumped it in the water.

John Parker, a neighbor, said that rescue workers had been trying to reach the girl, whom he identified as Jamie Bertholf, a classmate of his daughter. She is missing and presumed dead.

To the east of Binghamton, about 120 National Guardsmen were deployed to help with evacuations in the town of Walton, another flood-prone area near the reservoir. Asked about damage to homes in the area, Mr. Maurer said, "I don't think it'll look as dramatic as New Orleans, but if it's your house. ..."

Along the Jersey Shore, environmental officials were monitoring bacteria levels at the beaches, which often rise to unsafe levels during flooding. Elaine Makatura, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Conservation, said that increased levels of enterococci bacteria had been found at some bay beaches, but so far not along the ocean.

In Washington, the federal government closed the National Archives, the Justice Department and the offices of the Internal Revenue Service. Yesterday the storms — and the flooding — moved beyond the capital and toward the suburbs. In Rockville, Md., for instance, more than 2,000 people were evacuated from around Lake Needwood, as waters rose to nearly 25 feet above normal levels, emergency officials said.

In western Maryland, three people were rescued from a stalled car late Tuesday, only to die when the floodwaters carried them from the bed of a pickup truck, officials said. Edward J. McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said that two teenagers who went to check on the rising waters of Little Pipe Creek in Carroll County were presumed dead.

Officials in Pennsylvania said that a driver was killed near Gettysburg when she lost control of her car and hit a truck, and an elderly man died after his car washed off a bridge near Equinunk on the Delaware River, the state police said.

A search continued for an 8-year-old girl swept away in the raging waters in southwest Virginia, and another search was taking place for two teenagers who disappeared near a swollen creek in Keymar, Md., the state police there said.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies from the National Guard to the Coast Guard to the state police in several states came to the rescue of the soaked and stranded, using everything from sandbags to helicopters.

The deluge, from the earth and sky, demolished house and highway alike. Parts of the Pennsylvania Turnpike were closed; so too was the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Then there was the house that was spotted drifting down the Susquehanna River in New York — on fire for a while, it seemed.

"When the house was torn up, the gas was still on," said Mr. Maurer, the spokesman for the New York State emergency office.

"And it ignited."
Annotazioni − Reporting for this article was contributed by Laura Mansnerus in Trenton, Anahad O'Connor in White Plains, Fernanda Santos in Binghamton, N.Y., Nate Schweber in Livingston, N.Y., Ronald Smothers in Newark, and Robert Strauss in Philadelphia.

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