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Faith-based groups respond

Faith-based groups were responding in many states affected by recent storms, even as a new round of tornadoes struck Missouri and Kansas Monday night.

BY DISASTER NEWS NETWORK | BALTIMORE | May 24, 2004


"Many devastated areas are still inaccessible or closed to relief efforts because of dangerous debris that must be removed."

—Gil Furst


Faith-based groups were responding in many states affected by recent storms, even as a new round of tornadoes struck Missouri and Kansas Monday night.

Monday night's damage included several homes blown off their foundations, according to the Chillicothe Police Department in Missouri. Damage was to the south and east of Chillicothe. The National Weather Service had reports of possible tornadoes in Holt, Nodaway, Harrison, Linn, Worth and Macon counties in northwest Missouri.

More than 100 tornadoes as well as flooding hit the central Plains states over the weekend.

Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons were gathering information in Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Indiana.

In Nebraska and Iowa, members of the statewide Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster coalition are working with CWS; faith-based disaster coordinators; and state, local and federal emergency managers.

Iowa Interfaith Disaster Recovery Organization (IIDRO) will take the lead in long-term faith-based recovery work in that state.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is sending emergency grants to both Nebraska and Iowa. UMCOR was in contact with United Methodist conference representatives who were on the ground assessing needs in many states. "Damages are still being assessed in many areas, and UMCOR is considering where to focus its resources for long-term recovery," said Tom Hazelwood, executive secretary for disaster response in the U.S. for UMCOR.

Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) is working with local contacts to assess damages. "The immediate needs and damages are being assessed and interfaith efforts are beginning," reported Gil Furst of LDR. "Many devastated areas are still inaccessible or closed to relief efforts because of dangerous debris that must be removed. It is certain that major cleanup will be needed, as well as counseling services for those whose lives have been affected by this destructive weather."

One tornado demolished the small town of Hallam, Nebraska, where one person died. Hallam is home to 276 people. In that state, 37 people were injured, 158 homes were destroyed, and 57 homes were damaged in Lancaster, Saline, Gage and Cass counties combined.

In the northern Illinois community of Gurnee, residents Monday battled the rising waters of the Des Plaines River in what people were calling the town's worst flood in two decades. The river in Gurnee is expected to crest Wednesday at 12.7 feet - 5.7 feet over flood level.

The floodwaters forced schools to close for more than 2,000 youngsters there. Some local businesses and homes are already surrounded by water, including the Gurnee Community Church.

Further south in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, authorities were distributing sandbags and alerting residents to rising water levels.

Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS) in nearby River Forest, Illinois, is helping local pastors all along the Des Plaines River prepare for the flooding.

"We've spent a good amount of time talking to pastors and getting services lined up," said Dave Roth, director of public policy and community development for LCSF. "So essentially we've done an alert letting them know the resources we have, that's our preparation."

Roth's conversations with pastors in Des Plaines and Gurnee have been very encouraging so far. "There's a great sense of community there, people and the city governments are working well together," said Roth, who also serves as co-coordinator for Lutheran Disaster Response in Illinois. "They're very prepared."

Residents of Gurnee agreed. "Even though some 12 homes have been evacuated, people have had a lot of time to prepare for this. You could say they're trying to go with the flow," said Carol Cook, parish administrator for the Bethel Lutheran Church in Gurnee. "It looks like many people have insurance as well, but we'll see."

Storms and heavy rains unleashed weekend flooding from Wisconsin to southern Iowa.

Mudslides and high water blocked roads in Allamakee, Chicasaw, Grant and Vernon counties in Wisconsin and bridges were washed away throughout northeastern Iowa.

The Wapsipinicon River in Independence, Iowa, crested Monday at 20.6 feet, far above flood stage of 12 feet, according to the National Weather Service. That state saw 19 tornadoes, hail, high winds and heavy rains. As much as 9 inches of rain fell over the weekend near Ames.

In Michigan, Macomb County officials declared a state of emergency due to flooding caused by the overflow of the Clinton River.


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