Video: Thousands flee Northeast flooding

  1. Closed captioning of: Thousands flee Northeast flooding

    >>> good evening, well last night, it was los angeles , tonight's washington, last night it was the republicans, tonight it's the republicans, the speech to the joint session of congress , we'll get to all of it in just a moment. but first tonight, we have yet another natural disaster and a very big crisis. a cruel outcome of the relent less rains and flooding we have been suffering through in this half of the country. this happening now from maryland north to new england, and this is the work of tropical storm lee which just stormed through new orleans a few days back. tonight the worst of it is in wilk wilkes-barre, pennsylvania . combined evacuations over 120,000 people. it's where we begin tonight with nbc's anne thompson , she's in pennsylvania .

    >> reporter: the susquehanna river is expected to crest in the wee hours of the morning, but already officials are turning off the power and natural gas service to some homes in the wilkes -barre area. tonight pennsylvania is on its highest state of alert . this is the sound of trouble, creek s near wilkes -barre running over. the already swollen susquehanna river , carrying millions of gallons of extra water, pushing debris down the wyoming valley and swamping crucial infrastructure.

    >> we face a clear, public health energy. sewage treatment plants are under water and no longer working.

    >> reporter: where the river is expected to crest just below the 4 1/2 foot levee. he was just 5 in 1972 when hurricane agnes topped shorter lea levees and flooded moats of the area. what do you say if you stay behind ?

    >> you're on your own. if you're in the area and there's a problem, you may not get the assistance.

    >> reporter: the flood waters got to this home before she could get out.

    >> it's going to be a mess. i don't know how we're going to get it done after it goes down.

    >> reporter: today's rain brought now misery to waterlogged new york. 10,000 people forced from their homes ahead of the overflowing river. in new jersey, inundated by irene a week and a half ago, today punished by lee. in this yabneighborhood, 22 homes are condemned.

    >> there's nothing they can do.

    >> reporter: here in pennsylvania , the loss is even greater. four people died in the flooding, two in lancaster county . where tonight the roads and the susquehanna are indistinguishabe indistinguishable. tonight pennsylvania 's governor is warning to stay out of the floodwater, they could be toxic.

updated 9/9/2011 9:23:39 AM ET 2011-09-09T13:23:39

Do what you can to combat climate change, and take simple steps to protect your mental health.

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Recent hurricanes and flooding undoubtedly took a toll on the mental health of people in its path: stress over property damage, worries about loved ones living near affected areas, the headache of trying to evacuate en masse on gridlocked roadways. And stress doesn't end when the skies clear. Researchers at Tulane University tracked heart attack rates for five years following Hurricane Katrina and uncovered a fourfold increase over pre-Katrina rates, which they attributed to chronic stress created by recovery efforts.

It appears that the mental and physical stress associated with these major storms will continue to worsen, according to a new report from The Climate Institute, an Australian nonprofit devoted to combating climate change.

America's stress level prompts public health warning

The report, titled A Climate of Suffering: The Real Costs of Living with Inaction on Climate Change, suggests that extreme weather conditions caused by climate change and the ensuing cleanup and recovery efforts will exacerbate rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. As a result, the authors predict those conditions will lead to higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, violence, family struggles, and even suicide. According to one study by Australian psychologists, rates of suicide and "self-harm" jump 8 percent after droughts and heat waves. Children can be among the most affected. A study of elementary school–age children found that one in 10 suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as long as three months after 2006's Cyclone Larry, the second costliest cyclone in Australia's history.

Story: Pa. flood mark revised; levees in 'extreme stress'

Then there are the broader social impacts. Storms, floods, and droughts tend to push up cost-of-living barometers, such as food and gas prices, which imparts a financial strain on already-stressed residents, and small businesses that rely on goods produced in disaster-prone areas—whether it be farms in drought-ridden areas or oil refineries in the path of a hurricane—have to lay people off if they can't meet their financial commitments. Those can increase psychological problems for people both directly and indirectly impacted by disasters.

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Climate change is likely to intensify hurricanes, tornadoes, and other storms, as well as increase flooding, while also increasing the likelihood of droughts. Unfortunately in the U.S., Irene arrived this past weekend to "find a nation with a degraded belief in global warming, a defeated climate bill, and the absence of a federal plan to address an ominously rising number of natural catastrophes," to quote The New York Times  Climatewire blog. So it appears that combating climate change, and the ensuing psychological trauma, at least in this country, will be left to individuals, not public policy.

To help combat climate change:

  • Save energy and drive less. According to research from the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, an individual consumer's largest impact on the environment comes from seven things: cars; meat and poultry farming; crop production; home heating, hot water, and air conditioning; household appliances; home construction; and household water use and sewage treatment.

For tips on saving energy, see Save Money, Cut Greenhouse Gases: It's Easier Than You Think.

Eat organic
When grocery shopping, demand organic food and stick with mostly fruits, vegetables and grains. When you do buy meat or dairy products, make sure they're grass fed.

  • To cope with stress:

Healthy coping strategies for stress will become vital as our climate changes. Follow our tips and suggestions for coping.

Mind-Body-Mood Advisor: How to Be an Optimist in a Pessimistic Decade

Mind-Body-Mood Advisor: What the Chilean Miners Can Teach Us

Mind-Body-Mood Advisor: A Team Approach to Defeating Depression

Spiritual but Not Religious? You Can Still Get Miraculous Benefits

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