UMCOR Prepares Assistance as Flooding Continues in Midwest
By Susan J. Meister*
NEW YORK, June 17, 2008 —As the effects of flooding and tornadoes continue to unfold in ten states in the Midwest, UMCOR is working with Annual Conference partners to respond.
“The images are heartbreaking,” commented Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s top executive. “We are praying for the affected communities and are in touch with disaster coordinators in the conferences to prepare for the best next steps.
“United Methodists are urged to be in prayer, prepare to volunteer as they are able, and to make gifts to the US Spring Storms Advance,” Dixon continued.
The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is coordinating the federal response to support more than 11 million residents in: Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Iowa Conference maintains contact with churches and members
The Iowa Conference is using its web site as a clearinghouse for information related to the storm and encouragement for users.
“I urge you to ‘pray and faint not,’” wrote Bishop Gregory V. Palmer. “Marcia Young (conference disaster coordinator) is working vigorously with a statewide coalition, as well as with the conference and denomination, to help us take appropriate actions at each stage.”
Two recent tornadoes and severe flooding of nine major waterways have communities reeling. Eighty-three of Iowa’s 99 counties were declared disaster areas as of June 13. In addition to shipping 2,500 flood buckets, UMCOR has issued an emergency grant to address immediate needs and long-term recovery.
Indiana, Kansas and Wisconsin respond
The Indiana Area is using e-HUM (electronic Hoosier United Methodist news) to keep information flowing. Bob Babcock, disaster coordinator, advises that they are still in a “holding pattern” especially since some homes still have water in the basements and up to the first floor. Babcock reported, “We are assisting families in removing their possessions from the homes and awaiting additional flood buckets and water.” The conference has received an emergency grant from UMCOR.
The Kansas West Conference is preparing to respond in Chapman, a community devastated by a tornado on June 11. According to disaster coordinator Sandy Hendrickson, approximately 80% of the town was destroyed, including The First Episcopal United Methodist Church and parsonage and the middle and high schools.
“We are still assessing the needs,” Hendrickson said. “Because we are not able to enter the area at this time, we are working with other organizations trying to establish a plan of how to respond.” Numerous volunteer teams are on standby.
Domestic disaster executive Tom Hazelwood has been in contact with Dave Sharpe, disaster coordinator in Wisconsin Conference. Sharpe reports that thirty counties have flooding and will need assistance.
Illinois and Missouri brace for downstream effects
As water drains through the Iowa watershed, Illinois and Missouri towns along the Mississippi River are bracing for flooding. Emergency sandbagging operations were underway as the river is expected to crest at levels at or above the record 1993 levels.
Illinois Great Rivers Conference disaster coordinator Judy Doyle reported that flood buckets and health kits from the Midwest Mission Distribution Center were delivered to the small town of Oakland by the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.
UMCOR and partners ready for long term response
UMCOR staff members are preparing to travel to the affected areas and offer their assistance. Cathy Earl will provide support in Wisconsin and Illinois and Sandra Kennedy-Owes will respond to Iowa and Minnesota as they move through the emergency phase and begin the long term response.
“In partnership with United Methodists and our ecumenical partners, we are preparing to assist persons over the long term,” explained Hazelwood. “Once the emergency phase is complete, we will be ready with case management, training and other services to help affected communities.
“In the meantime, we pray for all those impacted by wind and water and those assisting in the emergency phase.”
*Meister is the Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR