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Published in Print: September 29, 1999, as Flooding Keeps Schools Closed In States Hit by Floyd

Flooding Keeps Schools Closed In States Hit by Floyd

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Schools remained closed or converted to temporary shelters last week as flooding from Hurricane Floyd left large areas of the East Coast under water more than a week after the storm had passed.

North Carolina and New Jersey appeared to have the worst flooding, but portions of Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia were also struggling to recover, officials said.

In North Carolina, where the hurricane dumped 19 inches of rain, roads were impassable and schools were closed in at least 13 counties.

"We've never, to my knowledge, and not in my lifetime, had flooding like this," said Benjamin J. Matthews, the director of the division of school support for the North Carolina education department. He surveyed the flood damage in some eastern districts last week.

Some schools closed initially on Sept. 15, when rains from Floyd first arrived. All the schools in the state were closed the following day. Mr. Matthews said last week that schools were reopening on a week-to-week basis, and that some could be closed for months.

"The infrastructure of these counties has been damaged," he said. Among the biggest problems local authorities are contending with are water lines that need to be tested for sewage contamination and roads that are damaged or destroyed.

Mr. Matthews said Duplin County, in the southeast part of North Carolina, had 64 complete or partial road and bridge washouts. "They cannot run school buses on those roads," he said. A primary concern for school officials is ensuring health and safety. Mr. Matthews said health officials were flying tetanus vaccines into areas where hundred of thousands of livestock animals drowned.

Inspectors from the state education department were working last week to ascertain the amount of damage to schools. "Preliminary estimates suggest 7 or 8 million dollars in damages done to schools," Mr. Matthews said.

Cleanup in N.J.

Hurricane Floyd's rains also struck heavily in parts of New Jersey. Some 25 percent of the state's schools remained closed late last week.

Richard Vespucci, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Education, said eight of the state's 21 counties were considered problem areas, and damages were being tallied at the local level.

"The main focus is what needs to be done to clean up and meet local building requirements and local health requirements, so that schools can reopen," he said.

At least one New Jersey school, Elementary School #16 in Clifton, will remain closed for the rest of the year because flood waters there reached within two feet of the ceiling.

And in the 7,600-student West Lindsor-Plainsboro district, students had to bring bottled water to school because heavy rain had caused contamination in the area's water supply, Mr. Vespucci said.

Vol. 19, Issue 5, Page 3

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