Lee’s downpours heighten crisis left by Irene
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
September 09, 2011

Lee’s downpours heighten crisis left by Irene

Lee’s downpours heighten crisis left by Irene
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
September 09, 2011

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee are dealing

a setback to residents in Pennsylvania, upstate New York and New Jersey still

suffering from Hurricane Irene, with organizations such as Southern Baptist

Disaster Relief scrambling to meet the escalating needs in the region.

Historic, or near-historic, flooding from the Susquehanna

River is increasing the need for disaster relief in northeast Pennsylvania and

central New York state where forced evacuations are underway.

“The rains have not stopped now and the rivers are still rising,” Karlene

Campbell, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of

Pennsylvania/South Jersey, said Sept. 8. “Right now, we’re just in the middle

of the flood. It’s really affecting a lot of communities along the way.

“It’s hard to get a grasp on things at the moment, with the flooding that’s

taking place.”

The Susquehanna, expected to crest as high as 41 feet, has prompted the

evacuation of some 100,000 residents in the Wyoming Valley, Pa., area, and the

evacuation of more than 10,000 in and around Binghamton, N.Y., where both the

Susquehanna and the Chenango rivers are flooding.

The Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY) is mounting efforts to meet the Red

Cross’ new request for an additional 16,000 meals a day from the feeding unit

stationed at Trinity Baptist Church in the Schenectady, N.Y., area, said Terry

Robertson, BCNY executive director. The unit from the Kentucky Baptist Convention

(KBC) had been preparing 5,000-6,000 meals a day since Sunday.

The unit was preparing 16,000 meals for delivery earlier today to Binghamton,

said Karen Smith, KBC disaster relief director.

Robertson, meanwhile, is helping meet the need for additional relief workers by

canceling this week’s scheduled meeting of the convention’s executive board and

asking its members to instead report to the feeding unit if they can maneuver

the flooded landscape to get there.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, where 43,000 homes already were damaged by Irene,

another 2-6 inches of rain is forecast from Lee. The BCNY’s call for at least

six mud-out units still was waiting to be filled Thursday, witgh disaster

relief units hard-pressed to meet the growing need across the Northeast, BCNY

leaders say.

“We are quite concerned that so many states are having so many disaster needs

at this time. We’re not optimistic that we’re going to get those (mud-out)

units,” Robertson said. “I think at this point it’s pretty clear we’ve got our

hands full.”

Floodwaters that had not fully receded from Irene now are rising again from

Lee, Robertson emphasized.

“We’re going to be in need of those mud-out units,” he said. “Right now, we’re

faced with the crisis of having enough manpower to provide the meals that are

being asked for.”

The Red Cross Thursday also increased its earlier request of 2,000 meals a day

from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding unit in Washingtonville,

N.Y., where the need had not been as great before Lee.

James Hundley, BCNY president and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in

Cortland, N.Y., spoke to Baptist Press from Upstate Medical Center in nearby

Syracuse, where two Emmanuel members were recovering from carbon monoxide

poisoning. The couple, in their mid-60s, inhaled carbon monoxide from a poorly

ventilated water pump they were using to get water out of their flooded

basement in Marathon, N.Y.

“There was just a steady downpour of water, so there wasn’t the ventilation

there would have been,” Hundley said. “There’s just so much rain. The aftermath

of the water is just devastating.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Chandler is a freelance writer in New Orleans.)