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Flooding hits Kansas homes

BY KAREN BOTHAM | WICHITA, Kan. | November 4, 1998

WICHITA, Kan. (Nov. 4, 1998) -- Severe rains, up to 12 inches in one

afternoon, caused flash floods and had waterways cresting their banks

throughout 14 counties in Kansas. Four of the hardest hit counties --

Sedgwick, Butler, Chase and Cowley -- were declared disaster areas by Gov.

Bill Graves.

Thousands were evacuated Sunday morning, some by boat as the water

sloshed into their homes; an early estimate has 900 families suffering

damage.

When the Rev. Brad Cooper awoke Sunday, Nov. 1, he knew it rained all

night, but his home was high and dry. Little did he know just how fortunate

he was. Just a mile down the road the scene was much different.

At 6:15 a.m. the Central Community Church's Sunday school teacher called

Cooper

and said her furniture-filled basement was flooding. She couldn't make it

in to teach because she and her husband had to try to save their belongings.

"I made three phone calls, and I had 12 people over there. In the next

three hours we moved every piece of furniture they had out of their

basement," Cooper said. Just as they were carrying the last piece, a pool table, up the stairs, the water crashed through the door and in minutes the base

ment had five feet of water in it.

They were lucky. Many others lost everything but the clothes on their

backs.

Julie Galuszka, public relations director for the American Red Cross in

Wichita, said she was talking with one woman who spent the night in one of

eight shelters open during the worst of the floods and the woman just began

to cry.

She'd lost everything -- her clothes, her home, her pets, her

medication. "Luckily she and her family were able to get out," Galuszka

said. "They had nothing except what was on their backs, and I think that's

typical." Five Red Cross shelters were still open Tuesday, althought three

others had already closed.

Both the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are holding off on any

official needs

assessment for the effected areas because the rivers keep rising and damage

to home is continuing.

"We're still so early in this disaster that it's hard to say (what the

needs are)," Galuszka said.

Leslie Church, administrative assistant of development and community

relations for the Salvation Army, said cleaning supplies were being

distributed to outlying areas.

The Disciples of Christ's Week of Compassion rushed emergency grants to

two churches, one in Augusta and the other in Arkansas City, Kan. Both

churches are serving as shelters.

Cooper's church, where it's not uncommon to find 2,500 people at Sunday

worship

services, has small care rings of eight to 14 people that meet weekly for

devotions and sharing. Word is circulating among those groups that help is

needed.

"The life of the church has been readily apparent," Cooper said. The

same family who had help emptying their basement, were again greeted with

help.

Twenty-two volunteers helped rip out the wet sheetrock so the home's frame

could begin drying.

Even though not all needs have been identified yet, Cooper's

parishioners have answered the call to help. Word about the disaster spread

during church Sunday and nearly 500 people signed response cards stating

their willingness to volunteer to clean up.

"During times of crises, you see the life of the church," Cooper said.

The rains have now stopped and although runoff is still flowing into the

rivers, officials hope the worst of it has come and gone.

"The rivers have crested and are on the way back down," said John

Coslett, director of emergency management for Sedgwick County. "Short of

heavy rainfall, I think we should be in pretty good shape. It's a clean up

problem now."

Posted Nov. 4, 1998


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