Even as Flood Waters Rise, UMCOR Works with Annual Conferences in Their Response
By Susan J. Meister*
NEW YORK, March 21, 2008—Maxine Allen describes the situation in Arkansas a "nightmare"—families in the counties affected by the February 5, 2008, tornadoes suffered an ice storm two weeks later, and are now dealing with devastating flooding along a nearly identical track. "People are in a fragile mental state,wondering, 'Why me?'" she said.
Allen, Disaster Response and Missions Coordinator for the Arkansas Conference, continues to work with partners and United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to assess the needs to all three events and prepare for response and recovery.
"We are in touch with the annual conferences affected by the flooding to provide support as events unfold," explained Tom Hazelwood, executive for UMCOR's domestic disaster response.
Missouri Anticipates Active Response
In neighboring Missouri, Disaster Response Coordinator Karen Benson is relying on her district coordinators to check in. "Because of past experience in the affected counties, we can anticipate that there will be uninsured and underinsured families whowill need our help," she said.
"While it's really too early to say exactly what we'll need, we are 'cooking' the recovery picture."
Benson chairs the Governor's Disaster Recovery Partnership and Rev. Mark Dumas is active in the state Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). "Lots of United Methodists will be active in this response,"she affirmed.
Illinois and Ohio Responses
The Illinois Great Rivers Conference has requested emergency grants from UMCOR to address flooding in both February and March. On February 5 and 6 water inundated Watseka and Pontiac in the northeast part of the conference, prompting a February 24 request. New flooding in southern Illinois from heavy rains this week prompted a second request from Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher on March 20.
Paul Widicus is pastor of Harrisburg First UMC, wherebetween 9 and 12 inches of rain fell in 24 hours this week. "Lots of flooding happened on the east side of town, the commercial area," he explained. "People may be out of work for weeks.
"The Ohio, Wabash and Mississippi Rivers are already at flood stage," Widicus continued. "Next week many towns will be surrounded by water. The Big Muddy River in Murphysboro will be at record flood stage this Sunday."
Widicus expects a long summer of cleanup. Since waters are still rising, he is not sure when the cleanup can begin or its extent. Like his counterparts in Arkansas and Missouri, he is preparing for the long term response. "We have an ecumenical group in Harrisburg called Christian Compassion Center," he said. "We'll be able to find families needing help as the response unfolds."
How You Can Help
Please give to Advance #901670 and write "Midwestern Floods" on the memo line of your check. You can give through your local United Methodist church or mail checks to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087.Contributions may be placed in the offering plate of any United Methodist congregation.
*Meister is the Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR