Long-term recovery set in Aberdeen

Flooding in May affected thousands across South Dakota.


Severe flooding struck Aberdeen in early May.
Credit: Chris Stucke/Brown County Emergency Management

As much as 95 percent of Aberdeen was affected by flooding.
Credit: Chris Stucke/Brown County Emergency Management

Faith groups and community organizations in Aberdeen are forming a long-term recovery committee to help the thousands of residents impacted by flooding in early May.

The groups met Thursday and again Monday and Tuesday with a Church World Service representative to start planning the recovery.

"Things are looking good for them," said Tom Davis, a disaster response and recovery liaison for Church World Service who led the meetings. "It's got a good cross section of community-based resources and faith community representation."

The United Methodist Committee on Relief was providing case management training and the Aberdeen committee members were also working with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee on securing a needs assessment on the community.

The flooding damaged 1,300 homes in Brown County, with the majority of the damage being in Aberdeen. At least 38 homes were destroyed and more than 130 have been condemned after inspections. More are being condemned as damage assessments continue.

The Rev. Richard Fylling said he was confident that the recovery committee would meet the needs of the affected residents.

"The attitude of the people involved with the long-term recovery committee is great," said Fylling, pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Aberdeen. "I think they're all solid people and we'll be able to get things done with support and volunteer work."

The job before the committee is a daunting one, he added, as at least 75 percent to 95 percent of the town was affected.

"This place turned into a lake," he said. "Aberdeen's a very flat area. There's no place for water to go when you get 8 inches in an hour. It's a real mess."

The Rev. Marie Lanzillo, pastor of North Highland United Methodist Church, helped organize teams to clean out flooded homes and said more volunteers will be needed in the weeks and months ahead.

"It's hard to know all the needs because it seems like they change everyday," Lanzillo said.

Lanzillo said volunteers have helped in at least 320 homes since the flooding, but more families were calling for assistance. She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was already referring some elderly people to the Community Assistance Center set up in her church. They have coordinated with other responding organizations in Aberdeen, including Lutheran Social Services.

Fylling said more people will come forward for help as they discover cracks in their foundations and have basement walls crumble after pumping out their basements. Some of those homes may be able to be repaired, but he said that leaves residents in a rough spot in the meantime.

"Many homes are temporarily or permanently unable to be occupied," Fylling said. "Some families are in hotels. The local restaurants are all very crowded at each mealtime since so many people still can't cook in their homes."

The emotional impact of the flooding will soon hit people hard, he added.

"Right now, people are doing what's necessary and maybe don't have time to think about all the effects," he said. "This is a grief process, though. When they get to that stage, the grief is 24 hours a day regardless of what else you do. That hits home after a while and you become very vulnerable. I don't think people have hit that just yet."

A federal disaster declaration was in effect for 11 South Dakota counties due to the flooding. The action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Beadle, Brown, Clark, Davison, Hanson, Hutchinson, Miner, Sanborn, Spink and Yankton counties. As of Monday, more than $3.8 million in FEMA aid had been authorized for individuals in Brown and Spink counties.

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More links on Flooding


Related Links:

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota

Church World Service Emergency Response Program


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