May Rains Costly To Many

July 06 - Reached Flood Level - Although it wasn’t of the magnitude of the flood which devastated New Orleans last year, nor the recent series of Florida hurricanes which impacted large numbers of our members, mother nature paid a visit to Northeastern Massachusetts this May, which raised havoc with a good chunk of our state’s population.

Heavy rain was predicted for the May 12 weekend, but none of the forecasters anticipated the 12 inches that drenched certain areas, causing some of the most serious flooding to hit the state in 70 years.

Association Vice President Joe DiFranco reported that there was heavy flooding in Peabody, his city, causing the evacuation of many elderly. “The fire department did a great job,” he said.

DiFranco’s friend, Lt. Bob Caruso of the Peabody Fire Department, reported that firefighters evacuated seniors from the Crowinshield and Walnut Street Apartments. “We worked around the clock for three days. We’ve had floods before…

I’d rank this among the top three during my 27 years with the department,” Caruso said. “We tried to warn kids to stay out of the water. They were being exposed to raw sewage.”

In fact, raw sewage was one of the problems in the Merrimac Valley where the Merrimac River and connecting waterways overflowed and millions of gallons of untreated sewage from treatment plants spilled out.

At 22 Phoenix Row in Haverhill where several of our members reside, the seven-story apartment building was closed for weeks and its residents sent to temporary housing. A sewage pumping station next door had been overwhelmed by the flood and the sewage quickly inundated surrounding buildings.

But the biggest losses were to homeowners, both those who were swamped by overflowing rivers and others whose cellars and homes were flooded by groundwater.

“My basement was pretty much wiped out by ground water,” said Association member Frank Harrison of Lawrence. “The power went out and the sump pump wouldn’t work. We spent thousands of dollars on flooring and walls. I don’t think insurance will cover it.”

Apparently, water damage from an overflowing body of water is covered by insurance, but water damage from ground water isn’t covered. We’ve heard many stories of what insurance will or will not cover. (Perhaps some of our members can share their insurance stories with us.)

Financial relief may be on the way for some. President Bush has declared flood-stricken regions of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine as disaster areas, making homeowners and businesses eligible for grants and low-interest loans to make repairs and aid their recovery. A state aid package has also been passed by the Legislature.

“This is only the beginning and we realize that the federal government is now involved in giving us as much assistance as possible, but we do need a state response as well,” said House Speaker Sal DiMasi.