Floodwaters from Hurricane Ivan steadily receded across the East, leaving behind layers of filth and mud that homeowners and officials had to slog through as damage assessments began in earnest.
Gov. Mike Easley flew over North Carolina’s hardest-hit areas, amazed at the miles of debris stretching beneath his helicopter. He said he would dip into the state’s $250 million rainy day fund to help with cleanup costs.
“The message today is that you need to tell us what you need, and we’ll get it for you,” he said. “You will be OK up here, because everyone is pulling together.”
Residents told to sterilize water
Officials from Alabama to North Carolina warned residents to sterilize anything in contact with floodwaters. Flooding often inundates sewage-treatment plants, and it’s likely that the brown floodwaters contain some measure of human waste.
“Make sure you’re wearing gloves when you clean up, make sure you’re wearing some kind of boots, something to keep the material away from your skin,” said Pennsylvania’s Health Department spokesman Richard McGarvey.
President Bush issued a disaster declaration Monday for eight counties in West Virginia. Parts of eight other states previously were declared disaster areas because of Ivan, making residents eligible for aid.
The hurricane and its remnants were blamed for at least 52 deaths in the United States and 70 in the Caribbean. Much of the destruction was caused by flooding in the storm’s wake.
North Carolina rescuers searching a section of the Pigeon River found the submerged car of a missing woman and child from Tennessee, but remained uncertain whether they were the latest victims of Ivan-spawned flooding.
About 440,000 homes and businesses remained without power Monday in Florida and Alabama because of the hurricane. Relief workers were delivering massive amounts of food, water and ice to people affected by the storm.
Ivan circled back
Some storm-weary Floridians received a mild second slap from Ivan after a portion of the storm circled back south and dropped up to five inches of rain Monday.
After hitting Florida last Thursday as a hurricane, Ivan weakened and broke apart as it traveled north, drenching southern and mid-Atlantic states before returning to sea. A slice of the storm turned southward, however, growing slightly as it traveled over warmer waters before reaching the state’s southeastern coast.
Farther north, more than 100,000 residents near Harrisburg, Pa., were ordered to boil tap water before drinking it, and officials distributed thousands of gallons of spring water.
The American Red Cross opened 43 shelters across Pennsylvania to house 700 evacuees. On Monday, the group sent out teams to assess future needs, said Angie Dearolf, spokeswoman for the Susquehanna Valley chapter.
“Buckets, mops, cleaning agents, meals — whatever’s needed,” Dearolf said.
Snowplows help with muck
Officials in the Ohio town of Marietta brought out snowplows and fire hoses to clear the muck away. In New Jersey, the Statehouse was closed after its parking garage was flooded by the Delaware River.
In Point Pleasant, W.Va., water rose near the tops of lampposts at a riverfront park outside the city’s floodwall. On Tuesday, roads flooded or blocked by debris prompted school closings in three counties and at some schools in a fourth county. Statewide, 289 homes and at least 31 businesses were destroyed, and 473 other homes were severely damaged, officials said.
Parts of downtown Port Deposit, Md., were off limits after the Susquehanna River spilled into city streets.
The National Weather Service said the Ohio River crested a record 12 feet above flood stage Monday at the Racine Lock and Dam in Ohio, about 52 miles south of Parkersburg.
In Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River crested at just over 27 feet, or 8 feet above flood stage, said Jim Cunningham, spokesman for Columbia County’s emergency department.