WA recovers from major flooding

Farmland may still be filled with standing water in northwest Washington, but relief workers are beginning the long and sloppy task of cleaning up the millions of dollars in damage caused by flooding there.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | October 29, 2003



"A cross section of both mainline and evangelical churches have decided to take the ball and run with it."

—Neil Molenaar


Farmland may still be filled with standing water in northwest Washington, but relief workers are beginning the long and sloppy task of cleaning up the millions of dollars in damage caused by flooding there.

Assessment of the damage spread across seven counties is still not complete, said Penelope Cassidy of the Washington Division of Emergency Management, but state officials say that more than 350 homes have incurred at least some damage. At least 112 homes have incurred major damage and 33 were destroyed. Many of those homes are in Skagit County, the most northwestern county in the state which borders on British Columbia to the north.

According to Dan Berentson, spokesman for Skagit County, 13 homes were destroyed there, 95 received major damage and another 78 incurred minor damage.

The immediate disaster response is already winding down in Skagit County, said April Axthelm, director of the Skagit Valley of the American Red Cross.

At the height of the crisis, the Red Cross had ten shelters open and 197 volunteers on duty, Axthelm said. Now there is one remaining shelter, at the Hamilton Baptist Church, and that is expected to close this weekend.

More than 8,000 meals, which were distributed by the Red Cross, were cooked by a team of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon.

Jim Parrish, director of the SBDR for Puget Sound, said his volunteers were cooking an average of 500 meals a day. Parrish planned to close down the mobile kitchen this Saturday, he said.

Meanwhile, two national faith groups, Mennonite Disaster Service and volunteers from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) are beginning volunteer cleanup work in Skagit County.

CRWRC volunteers have already begun cleaning up damaged homes, and the Mennonite group plans to start on Thursday, said Neil Molenaar, a disaster relief and recovery liaison for Church World Service.

In addition, local faith leaders have formed a new interfaith organization to deal with long-term recovery. The new group, Skagit Interfaith Flood Recovery, will soon form a board of directors and take over the next phase of cleanup work, Molenaar said.

"A cross section of both mainline and evangelical churches have decided to take the ball and run with it," he said.

The next big step for recovery, Molenaar said, will be the probable federal disaster declaration that may come later this week.


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