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Elderly hit hard by KS flooding

BY GEORGE PIPER | AUGUSTA, Kan. | December 9, 1998

AUGUSTA, Kan. (Dec. 9, 1998) -- Looking at the faces and and hearing the

experiences of senior citizens in this town, the impact of last month's

flooding becomes all too apparent. Just ask Christine Iverson.

As a disaster consultant for Lutheran Disaster Response, Iverson toured an

Augusta neighborhood hit just days earlier by flooding. She encountered an

elderly woman standing near where her home used to be. Losing the home came

a couple of months after her husband had died.

"You see what I have on? This is all I have left," said the woman clad in a

T-shirt, skirt, thin jacket and shoes as dusk approached on Nov. 6. "I've

lost everything else now," she added and began to cry on Iverson's

shoulder.

The woman is one of more than 150 seniors in a four-county area -- about 140

from Augusta alone -- who lost everything in the flooding. Many of these

seniors have fixed incomes and little savings to make up for their losses,

noted Iverson.

"That's going to be pretty typical at this stage of life. They have losses

on top of losses," Iverson said, adding that a person is being hired to

deal with going care of the area's elderly residents. "This particular

population is one we have a lot of concern for because they're very risk."

Heavy rains flooded rivers and creeks in Butler, Cowley, Chase and Sedgwick

counties in Kansas and damaged more than 1,500 homes in small towns and

rural areas. Standing water remained in some locations for five days.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has 107 maximum disaster grants

pending in Butler County -- mainly in Augusta -- and another 35 further south

in Arkansas City.

Even with the grants, families and individuals may still be short of money

needed to fully repairs or rebuild homes, said Iverson, a regional staff

worker

with Lutheran Social Services of Kansas/Oklahoma.

The Flood Relief Aid Committee (FRAC), an Augusta interfaith group, is

working with a local unmet needs committee are working to identify needs in

the community, said the Rev. Tom Davis of First Christian Church (Disciples

of Christ).

Housing is the primary concern in Augusta. Even temporary housing is

difficult to obtain, and Davis noted that some families have already packed

up and moved elsewhere.

Identifying and coping with the emotional loss is a topic being tackled by

the local organization, Davis said, adding that FEMA may provide counseling

assistance to disaster survivors. FRAC established a $500,000 recovery

budget and but has collected just $35,000 to date.

Communities are at various stages of recovery, said Cherri Baer, a Church

World Service disaster resource consultant for Kansas. Some area still have

several homes with mud in them while other places are trying to dry-out out

sheet rock. "It's the same old story," she said. "Work teams are going to

be needed into the spring and next summer."

Two small towns -- Elmdale and Cedar Point -- have basically washed away, and

Iverson said local officials are unsure about the future in those

tiny communities. The area's agricultural base did not escape damage as

farmers reported building, crop and livestock losses, including one farmer who

lost more than 100 cattle during the storm.

The timing of the November floods was particularly bad, noted Iverson. She

said some the families who rushed to get their homes ready to live in for

winterare now facing serious health concerns due to molds and fungus in

waterlogged walls. The expected cold and snow also will slow construction

for those who are awaiting repairs on their homes.

Posted Dec. 9, 1998


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