In a church parking lot, Mont Clare residents greet each other with hugs, their embraces long and tight. They share a smile and a nod that says, “I know what you’re going through.”
This is ground zero for Hurricane Ida’s destruction in Upper Providence Township, where in the first week of September, historic floods ravaged nearly 200 homes — about a quarter of the some 800 residences impacted across Southeastern Pennsylvania — displaced hundreds, and caused $120 million in public infrastructure damage.
Now, seven weeks after nearly eight feet of water gushed through residents’ doors, most homes along Walnut Street are empty and gutted, missing walls and floors. Some remain without water and power. Between Montgomery and Chester Counties, 537 people impacted by the flood are still homeless and living in hotels.
But in this lot on a chilly fall morning, flood survivors and volunteers who have supported them since that terrifying night share omelets, hope, and gratitude.
It’s not unusual to see a surge in community spirit after a disaster, but some 50 days later, these volunteers remain the backbone to the area’s recovery, as flood insurance funds are held up by bureaucracy, and as residents say communication and resources from township officials have been scant.
When residents shared breakfast last Sunday, some commented on the fact that officials from Phoenixville — a neighboring but separate borough — were present, but not their own.
“That’s the mayor we can’t even vote for,” Brenda Morgan said as Phoenixville Mayor Peter Urscheler hugged a Mont Clare resident. “I wonder where our township is.”
“They know our address to send us our tax bills, but don’t know our address to turn our power back on,” Nikki Milholin said jokingly.
Upper Providence Township officials said they’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes coordinating recovery efforts. But they said they understand residents are in a difficult position, and plan to audit their response to learn from the experience. At this point, they said, people need to focus on reconstructing their homes and planning for the future.
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“No municipality can fight this climate change,” said Bill Starling, chair of the township supervisors. “It essentially made a piece of the township uninhabitable.”
So now, on top of the stress of piecing their lives back together, residents must decide whether, amid the ongoing threat of floods due to climate change, rebuilding is even feasible, or if they should sell their homes to the government and move on.
Mont Clare, a village of about 1,800 people, is located …….