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Chester County Press

Editorial: After the floods, solutions

10/26/2021 09:34PM ● By Richard Gaw

The scenario at the Oct. 19 Avondale Borough Council meeting carried with it the complexity of a problem for which there is no surefire method of solving.

At the end of the discussion, however – between the salient facts of reality and hardship, possible answers began to emerge.

Before the Avondale council members, Kennett Area Community Service (KACS) Executive Director Leah Reynolds spoke in heartbreaking detail about the impact that recent floods – Hurricane Ida being the latest – have had on the Avondale Apartments complex at 200 1st Street in the borough. Currently, a little more than seven weeks removed from the hurricane’s swift damage to southern Chester County on Sept. 1, 86 residents of the apartment complex are still displaced from the flood damage done to its first floor from the overflowing of the nearby White Clay Creek. Of those, one-third required the temporary relief of a hotel and are now living in nine rooms at a local hotel, the cost of which is a staggering $4,500 per week – paid for by KACS through private donations.

It’s not the first time KACS has helped those who live in the Avondale Apartments; in 2020, heavy rains on Aug. 7 of that year pummeled the complex, forcing 45 residents to occupy 14 hotel rooms – again paid for by KACS.

All told, KACS has spent over $61,000 for hotel rooms for families displaced by these two floods.

The work of KACS – responding to the emergency housing and food needs of the southern Chester County community – is done in partnership with other local agencies like The Garage Community and Youth Center, the United Way of Southern Chester County, the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network, Casa Guanajuato, the Mighty Writers, the county’s Department of Community Development and many more organizations.

During these last two extreme weather events, each agency has stepped up its already enormous efforts to provide food, shelter, clothing, communication and hope to families who have found themselves suddenly and without fault of their own adrift in uncertainty and despair. And yet, when the next hurricane or damaging storm arrives, it is nearly certain that the limited resources of these organizations will be called upon again to do the chief labor of restoring everything again to order. Volunteers will arrive on the scene to serve pizza and play with toddlers; funding from community members will pour in and go toward hotel rooms, food and clothing.

During her presentation, Reynolds called upon the council to send one of its own to serve on a newly-formed volunteer community group whose mission will be to determine how to best prepare for and cope with future flooding and resident displacement. While it is expected that these volunteers will move small mountains with big ideas, we believe it falls upon our local municipalities to shoulder the largest responsibility to help those in distress.

We call upon representatives from every municipality to expand these ideas that will come across the entire southern Chester County region, particularly those whose downtowns lay in flood zones. We encourage them to tap into the resources of federal support. 

We implore them to work with local businesses, and engage cities and towns in other parts of the United States in conversations, and to enlist the assistance of environmental groups to commission studies of flood plains and peak flows along waterways like the White Cay Creek in Avondale and the Brandywine River near Chadds Ford.

Short of long-range prognostication, we are left only to speculate when the next great storm of this decade will arrive in our region, and yet with proper planning and the involvement of many, we can mitigate the rising floodwaters and save lives and livelihoods.

We simply have to. We cannot witness such devastation again.