As Long Island, N.Y., and Detroit, Mich., continue to dry out from record amounts of rainfall that led to widespread flooding last week, the assessment of needs in communities surrounding those areas is beginning.
Many homes in the communities on Long Island, just south of New York City, and Detroit suffered extensive damage from rising floodwaters that also led to closures or many roads, including interstates around the Motor City.
Long Island received nearly 14 inches of rainfall on Wednesday (Aug. 13), a record for the state of New York in a 24-hour period. Detroit received more than 4.5 inches of rain on Monday (Aug. 11) and some communities surrounding the city had as much as 6 inches, the heaviest rainfall in 89 years.
Presbyteries in the regions affected by the flooding have reported few requests from churches for assistance, but the regional governing bodies are prepared to provide aid to those in need.
Mark Tammen, executive presbyter for Long Island Presbytery in Commack, N.Y. (centrally located on Long Island), said there have been no reports from any of the Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations of any significant damage, only issues with some water in basements and leaking roofs, though there probably were many church members dealing with damage to their homes from the flooding.
“This was a freak storm,” said Tammen, noting that there was about an inch of rain east near the Hamptons and less than that northwest toward New York City. “But where the heaviest rain fell, it was of historic proportions.”
Tammen contacted Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), noting the organization is willing to stand with the presbytery and its congregations as they determine how serious the needs are in coming days.
“Our churches seem to be doing well, but it is a major crisis,” he said, adding that more information about damage should be available once the waters recede and people can actually assess what happened to churches and homes. “It’s a mess. The water is starting to go down, and we will see what the damage actually is like as that progresses.
“We expect to hear more as the days go by. Once we get a better understanding of the damage and resources needed we’ll be able to address the situations that arise.”
Tammen explained that the damage was not as bad as it was when Superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012. Many people in the area continue to recover from that storm still today. He said many communities impacted by that massive hurricane are dealing with flooding issues again but the homes raised off the ground when they were rebuilt so they now have more water around than in them.
Two churches in one of the hardest-hit areas already offer food to residents of their communities, and Tammen said they already have reached out to provide assistance. The congregations of Presbyterian Church of Islip and First Presbyterian Church of Babylon stand ready to offer aid to those affected by the flooding.
Presbyterian Church of Islip offers its food pantry on Saturdays and a thrift store also is available.
The food pantry at FPC-Babylon is open on Mondays and Fridays, and its Serving the Savior meal is offered on Thursdays.
“We’ve reached out to a lot of people already but it’s not as many this time as when Superstorm Sandy hit,” said Susan Cunningham, deacon moderator for FPC-Babylon. “We know one lady lost her home, but things are not as bad as Sandy. We stand ready to assist in any way we can.”
Cunningham said she had some water damage in her home, though not as much as other people in the area. She said the Neighbors Supporting Neighbors network set up after Sandy continues to be in operation and provides a way to put people in touch with the appropriate organizations to get needed resources to deal with such issues. The network is headquartered at FPC-Babylon. She noted some financial assistance already has been extended to help address problems created by Wednesday’s torrential rains.
Tammen said one of the major setbacks associated with the rainfall has been flooding of roads across the island. Many motorists were trapped in their vehicles by the rising floodwaters and had to be rescued by emergency personnel, leading to many abandoned vehicles.
“The biggest crisis we know of has been with transportation,” he explained, noting that the two major transportation corridors for about 3 million people located centrally on Long Island were shut down. “It resulted in gridlock like you’d see in Manhattan. Traffic is a big problem. There is nothing harder than just sitting and waiting.”
Like Long Island, Detroit continues to recover from heavy rainfall that led to flooding so severe that at least five of its major thoroughfares were shut down and led many motorists to abandon their vehicles.
Those roads remained closed Tuesday as crews worked to clean debris caused by one of the heaviest recorded periods of rainfall in the city’s history, and it was Thursday before they all were open to traffic again. Streets have been filled all week with debris brought by the flooding but also from people starting to clean their homes and businesses.
Macomb and Warren, on the east side of Detroit, were two of the areas hardest hit by flooding.
Officials with Detroit Presbytery indicated that only one church had contacted the offices with reports of damage from the heavy rainfall and flooding. Littlefield Presbyterian Church in Dearborn, about 10 miles west of Detroit, reported some flooding in its basement.
“We’ve not had a lot of information from churches about damage, and no other requests by phone or email for assistance,” said Beverly Knox, executive assistant for the presbytery. “Evidently the churches are working through their insurance companies to take care of any damages. We’ve not had requests for assistance from the presbytery at this point.”
Like Tammen, Knox noted that could change as a more thorough assessment of damage is made in coming days.
The flooding in Detroit occurred seven weeks after the 221st General Assembly of the PCUSA wrapped up its business in that city.