- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

From combined dispatches

Hundreds of people evacuated their homes yesterday in parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania as rivers and small streams were swollen beyond their banks by the torrential rain dumped by remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

The Ohio River inundated parts of Wheeling and other West Virginia river towns, as well as communities on Ohio’s shore, and the Delaware River flooded parts of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

More than 1.2 million homes and businesses were still without electricity early yesterday from Florida to Pennsylvania because of Ivan, utilities estimated.

The hurricane and its remnants had been blamed for at least 52 deaths in the United States, 19 of them in Florida, and 70 deaths in the Caribbean.

In Pensacola, Fla., hundreds of relief workers fanned out yesterday to help still-numb families. Motorists waited in lines miles long to buy gas and get free food, ice and water. People of all ages sifted through the rubble of demolished and damaged homes and businesses, trying to salvage clothes, photos, anything of their life before Hurricane Ivan.

The Rev. Russell Levenson of Christ Episcopal Church in Pensacola gave his congregation “permission slips” to grieve for their lost possessions. Then he urged them to look for hope.

“Maybe you lost the trees, but not the house. Maybe you lost the house, but not the stuff in it,” he said. “Maybe you lost everything, but you’re still here.”

And they were, worshipping in a large meeting room because their church bell had fallen through the roof.

In West Virginia, Gov. Bob Wise spent Saturday night with evacuees on the gym floor at Wheeling Park High, one of several Red Cross shelter sites, after a brief tour of the area by road.

“I saw mobile homes uprooted and tossed downstream,” he said. “I saw human lives uprooted.”

The Ohio River crested yesterday at Wheeling at about 9.3 feet above flood stage, after submerging the city’s riverfront park and amphitheater. It mostly covered the city’s midriver Wheeling Island, which holds residential neighborhoods and Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming.

Downriver, residents had been urged to evacuate parts of Moundsville, where the Ohio crested at 10 feet above flood stage.

In the southeastern Ohio city of Marietta, streets were underwater near the river and about 200 people had to leave their homes in what could be the city’s worst flooding since 1959.

The 126-year-old Rinard Covered Bridge over the Little Muskingum River near Bloomfield “literally disappeared,” said Mike Cullums of the Washington County Emergency Management Agency.

Hundreds of New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents fled their homes along the Delaware River yesterday. Several bridges that cross the Delaware between the two states were blocked by high water, and emergency officials said the river was not expected to crest until evening.

In Phillipsburg, N.J., state police helicopters were used to monitor a propane tank and a house that were floating down the river, authorities said.

“It was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen,” said Sgt. Gerald Lewis.

Tropical Storm Jeanne turned into the open sea, making it likely to spare the Southeastern United States. Another hurricane, Karl, gained strength but was far out in the Atlantic on a course that will keep it there, a threat only to shipping.

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