Flooding Prompts Disaster Response Operations in Five States

Julie H. Case

Volunteers deploy from Vermont to Illinois to assist residents with recovery from severe storms in July.

After residents spent days blanketed under smoke sweeping south from Canadian wildfires and months of abnormally dry to drought-level conditions, severe storms and rain came to the north and east in sheets in July, flooding cities, streets, and homes. 

In response, disaster response nonprofit Team Rubicon has launched six flood response operations in five states—Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. 

Clean Ups Begin in the Green Mountain State

To the east, Vermont experienced catastrophic flash flooding with impacts not seen since 2011’s Hurricane Irene and forcing more than 100 people to be rescued and mudslides in multiple places. The town of Plymouth, located just south of Killington and west of Hartford, CT, received more than 9 inches of rain in the storm, and President Biden approved an Emergency Declaration for the state on July 10.

A team of Greyshirts spent the day helping flooding survivors in Vermont. Photo by Jared Sabater.

On July 17, Team Rubicon began putting volunteers—or Greyshirts—on the ground in Vermont where, over the course of two weeks, they’ll conduct muckouts and debris removal for a variety of residents. By July 25, the volunteers had already generated more than 50 work orders and completed 17 debris removal jobs and muck-outs. 

Dueling Operations in the Empire State

The slow-moving storm system dumped 5- to 8-plus-inches of rain in Orange County, NY, in early July, flooding streets, prompting dozens of rescues for drivers whose vehicles were stranded on inundated roads. Areas in the Hudson Valley, including around West Point, were especially affected.

In response, Team Rubicon began deploying more than two dozen Greyshirts to the Goshen area on July 15, where they will spend three weeks providing assistance with muck outs and debris removal. Already, the organization has completed work on 20 homes and generated work orders for, or started work on, 40 more. 

A Greyshirt removes flood debris from a flooded home. Photo by Jared Sabater.

Farther north in New York’s Finger Lakes region, precipitation totals exceed 8.5 inches, prompting New York Governor Hochul to declare a State of Emergency for Ontario County. The heavy rainfall led to significant flooding in the Canandaigua area affecting more than 100 homes. 

Last week, nearly 20 Greyshirts from the U.S. and from Team Rubicon Canada began deploying to the area, where they completed 15 muck-outs and debris removal jobs. 

Mucking Out Massachusetts 

Rivers and creeks across Massachusetts were already at high levels when widespread rainfall of 2- to 5-inches—and as high as 7 inches in some localized places—fell across the state in early July. Among the hardest hit by heavy rains was North Adams: the city was forced to declare a state of emergency as flooding impacted roads, homes, and other crucial pieces of infrastructure. While municipal workers labored for hours on recovery, water levels remained dangerously high through the city’s flood control system. 

On July 24, Team Rubicon began deploying Greyshirts to the area where they’ll spend the week mucking homes and removing debris for residents impacted by the severe storm. 

A Swift Response in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the area around Reading was also hit hard during the storms, with nearly 7.5 inches falling in Berks County. The sudden deluge swept away cars and killed at least five people. 

To help residents in the area recover, Team Rubicon launched operations in Berks County on July 21. Four days later, the 14 Greyshirts deployed to the area had already conducted nearly 30 site surveys, generated work orders for multiple homes, and completed numerous muck-outs and debris removal jobs.  

Mopping Up the Windy City

Just days after the June 29 derecho and tornado in Illinois, Central Cook County experienced severe storms that brought rainfall totals between 3 and 7 inches in the immediate vicinity of Chicago. A few localized rain totals exceeded even that on the far west side of Chicago and in Berwyn, Oak Park, and the town of Cicero, which reported more than 8 inches of rain in a 6-hour period. 

A site survey team heads out to inspect flooding damage. Photo by Andrew Dickason.

The deluge overwhelmed Cicero’s sewer and water retention system, and other western and southwestern suburbs of Chicago suffered a similar plight. Many streets were flooded, and a large number of homes suffered flood damage, prompting Cook County and the State of Illinois to issue disaster proclamations.

After various municipalities in the area received thousands of reports of damage to homes and businesses, the town of Cicero requested Team Rubicon’s assistance in cleanup efforts in mid-July. 

On July 22, Team Rubicon began putting nearly 20 pairs of boots on the ground in Chicago where, over the course of three weeks, Greyshirts are expected to conduct muck-outs and general debris removal for dozens of homeowners.

In all, Team Rubicon expects to deploy more than 125 Greyshirts in the last weeks of July and first weeks of August and hopes to serve hundreds of residents in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

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