AUGUSTA, Kan. (Nov. 6, 1998) -- When sections of Augusta, Kan., began
flooding on Sunday afternoon, the Rev. Tom Davis of First Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ) headed to a section of town near the dike to
encourage members of his congregation to leave the area.
Although no official evacuation notice was given, Davis wasn't alone in his
concern. Others with family and friends along the Walnut River also urged
people to leave. When water crested over the dike and eroded a portion of
the dirt structure, those who stayed behind saw first-hand the damage
floodwaters can cause.
Rainfall up to 12 inches on Sunday forced rivers from its banks in southern
Kansas and caused the worst flooding ever in some areas. Just one person
was killed, but up to 1,600 homes and scores of businesses sustained damage
in Butler, Cowley and Sedgwick counties. At one point, one-third of the
state's rivers and streams were at or above flood stage.
In Arkansas City, a community of 12,000 people some 45 miles south where
the Arkansas and Walnut rivers converge, both waterways overflowed to soak
residents on the city's south and east sides. About 2,000 people were
"There's a lot of people walking around who lost everything," said the Rev.
Steve Chambers of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), noting that
it was common to see water up to eight feet high around several homes.
Most of those flooded in Augusta, a town of 8,700 located 19 miles east of
Wichita, lived in a low-income area, said Davis.
First Christian Church served as an American Red Cross shelter and has
housed more than 70 people daily since Sunday's flood. Meals for those in
the temporary setup are being served there and in the Augusta United Methodist
Church, the Mennonite Church set up a daycare facility.
The First Baptist Church (American Baptist) currently is the command post
for local relief efforts.
"Other churches and pastors are coming together and uniting their efforts
to serve the people as effectively as we can," he said, adding that plans
for a community-wide Thanksgiving service are in the works.
The Augusta Ministerial Alliance has already met twice this week to plan
recovery efforts and to establish a trust fund for that purpose. "We've
found ourselves very clearly thrust into this for the long term," Davis
said. He added the process may take three to four years. "We're trying to
what will happen when Red Cross and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management
Agency) are gone."
After serving as a shelter and food center for three days in Arkansas City,
Central Christian Church is concentrating on cleanup, said Chambers.
Floodwaters reached record levels, and nobody can remember both rivers
flooding at the same time. Compounding the situation was a dike that busted
and sent more water through neighborhoods.
"Several of the churches around town have pulled their resources together
and are working to get things to the people that need them," he said.
The Arkansas City Ministerial Alliance plans to be involved in the
recovery, said the Rev. Gary Brown, head of the organization and pastor at
IXL Baptist Church (Southern Baptist Convention). "We're going to see a lot
of people that need a lot of help," he said. "As a ministerial alliance and
a church, we're going to do all we can."
The outpouring of generosity overwhelms Davis and Chambers, as has the
number of people volunteering time and resources toward the relief.
"I think that speaks to the whole Christian community of faith," he said.
"We need to jump in there and do what we can in the name of Christ."
In Oklahoma, Gov. Frank Keating declared a disaster emergency in Alfalfa,
Grant and Kay counties, where rain there caused record flooding of the
Chikaskia River in Blackwell and the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River to
flow out of its banks in Grant and Kay counties. The damage there is
threatening cattle and recently planted wheat.
Posted Nov. 6, 1998
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