Yet more flooding expected in Midwest

Faith-based organizations distribute cleaning supplies, collaborate on recovery plans

BY VICKI DESORMIER | July 6, 2008



"Some of these people have lived in these houses their whole lives and they're being told they can never go back and that the houses will be torn down."

—Marian MacNeill, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance


Flood-weary residents along rivers in the Midwest are tallying damages and planning for a long recovery while keeping an eye on the weather which is promising yet more rain.

While Iowa residents are well-into the clean-up phase following massive flooding last month, just last week citizens of Winfield, MO watched in horror as flood waters pushed under the six foot barrier they had built for about 2000 feet along the edge of town and washed the sandbags under a flood of water. Nearly 150 homes in the small town of about 800 north of St. Louis became the latest community to be hit by flooding that has damaged more than 35,000 homes from Indiana to Missouri this year.

"They tried to fight it, but the water won," said Lincoln County emergency management spokesman Andy Binder.

The river in Winfield crested at just over 37 feet and the waters receded last week but not before damaging a number of homes. The month of heavy rains has drenched parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Thousands of people have been forced from their homes, some of the homes completely destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are ruined by rains and mud from the overflowing rivers.

Further upstream, in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, residents are mopping up from the floods and tornadoes of the last months while the National Weather Service predicts more severe flooding for some of the same areas hit by high waters last month.

Weekend thunderstorms in a wide area along the Mississippi River will make already swollen rivers push higher and possibly crest again where they have crested and peak at a higher than expected level where they have not yet reached their top levels, forecasters said. Tributary rivers and streams are also expected to bring flooding.

Faith responders are scrambling to help. A winter and spring of disaster after disaster has left supply warehouses empty and the coffers of response agencies with dangerously low balances. Frantic appeals are being broadcast, but response can barely keep up with the ever-growing need.

"But the local churches have picked up and are doing whatever is needed," Marian MacNeill of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), who has been working in areas in and around Cedar Rapids, IA, said. "There is a call, nationally, for flood buckets, but the local churches are getting together to make flood buckets here."

And a spokesman for the United Methodist Committee On Relief's (UMCOR) Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, LA, said 5,000 buckets they had there on June 17 have been shipped across the Midwest, leaving them with barely 200 left to send. They've sent out an urgent appeal for more of the five-gallon buckets of cleaning supplies.

A number of faith-based organizations including Mennonite Disaster Service, Lutheran Disaster Service, PDA, UMCOR, Church World Service and others are coordinating plans for a long-term response in Iowa. On Wednesday, however, nearly two dozen homes in Cedar Rapids were slated for demolition because they were structurally unsound.

"It's what we call the secondary the emotional disaster," MacNeill said as she was given the news about the houses that were to be torn down. "Some of these people have lived in these houses their whole lives and they're being told they can never go back and that the houses will be torn down."

Nancy Brammer, who was at the First Baptist Church in Winfield with friends last weekend to celebrate a wedding, said things weren't as bad as everyone had expected. Though the water had rushed through a small part of town, she said, and the highway was closed in both directions, the town was "in pretty good shape" despite it all.

"The Mississippi is funny," she said. "You think it'll destroy everything, but it has a way of just going past and out to the lowest place."


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Related Links:

National Flood Forecast Map

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