Indiana and Ohio assess flood damage

January 20, 2005

The high water across Indiana is slowly receding but many are still keeping a close eye on the rivers.

Along the Wabash River, levies in Terre Haute are saturated and the National Guard is helping sand-bag in the western section of town. Just south of Terre Haute, the Wabash River has overtopped the levy in Sullivan County. "That has closed down one road and has mostly just affected agricultural area," said Alden Taylor, public information officer for the Indiana Emergency Management Agency. The state still only has preliminary damage assessments of the affected towns at this point.

Taylor noted that in the appeal Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels sent to the White House for a federal declaration Friday, the damage numbers were 128 homes destroyed, 294 with major damage, 678 with minor damage, and more than 1,000 affected. "We do expect those numbers to increase," added Taylor.

Other counties with significant flooding include Madison and Clinton. Some 24 counties across the state have declared local emergencies. Another four counties reported that they are still sheltering some families.

Further down the Wabash River in the city of Vincennes, a flood gate is leaking but officials say the pump is keeping up with the water levels at this time. "We are keeping a very close eye on the water pressure there, the water is very high," said Taylor. Most of the flooded rivers crested Monday or are expected to crest Tuesday and Wednesday.

Faith-based disaster relief groups are already making their plans for the response. The Indiana chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (INVOAD) was activated some time ago and is monitoring the situation via daily conference calls with members and through their seat in the state Emergency Operations Center. "We are doing what we can to determine what's needed," said Lane Sims, INVOAD secretary.

INVOAD Member Mary Anna Speller agreed. "It is challenging to know at this point just how many homes have been affected across the state," said Speller, disaster response coordinator for the Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Allen Haynes of the Southern Baptist Church in Indiana said his volunteer teams are not officially active at this time, but he expects them to get the call next week. "I know we'll get the calls next week when the water is down, I expect a lot of mud-out work," explained Haynes, disaster relief director for the Southern Baptist Church in Indiana. His disaster teams have six disaster trailers in Indiana. Some are equipped to feed the public and others are for debris removal or the mud-out process. Just last week Indiana Baptist Teams were busy with debris removal in Muncie for five days after the powerful ice storm.

Bob Babcock, disaster response coordinator for the United Methodist Church's Southern Indiana Conference, said he is also staying in touch with his local congregations to prepare for any needs that may surface.

Ohio update:

Preliminary estimates in southeast Ohio show that of the more than 9,000 homes with flood damage last September, about one-half of them were damaged again in this most recent round of flooding.

According to Mary Woodward, disaster response coordinator for Lutheran Social Services in Ohio, while that kind of data is still preliminary, the number of destroyed and damaged homes across the state will be significant. "We've got ice storm damage in the northern part of the state, and then flooding in the south," noted Woodward, who is also head of the Southeast Ohio Disaster Relief Network (SEODRN).

Heavy rains over the past two weeks forced many rivers out of their banks across the state. Ohio Governor Bob Taft declared a state of emergency in 59 of Ohio's 88 counties and is requesting a federal declaration.

In eastern Ohio's Tuscarawas County, the town of Bolivar saw more than 3,300 people voluntarily evacuated due to high water. Other hard hit areas include Cambridge and Marietta. Woodward said the Ohio chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (OHVOAD) is holding daily conference calls to assess and respond to needs. "We are working with The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross to meet any emergency needs we can right now." OHVOAD and Adventist Community Services are also running a supply warehouse in Byesville where residents can receive cleanup supplies and other needed materials.

For the long-term, Woodward said OHVOAD is working closely with Church World Service on plans to form several long-term recovery committees (LTRCs) in certain parts of the state. SEODRN already handles southeast Ohio, but new LTRCs will form in southwest and northwest Ohio.

Woodward also warned about the emotional state of many of the repeat flood survivors in Ohio. "The depression is getting very serious among the families," Woodward said, noting that floods have hit some parts of Ohio frequently in the past few years. Many families are very discouraged and want to relocate, yet many government buy-out programs move very slowly. "They also oftentimes cannot afford to move on their own," she added.

Winter flooding is usually more difficult than spring and summer flooding, added Woodward. "Because many houses lose power during flooding, in the winter all the water in the basement will freeze. That leads to burst pipes and water freezing within the home's foundation. And most times with that, you can't even begin to address those serious foundation issues until it warms up in the spring. "That complication really compounds the cost of repairs."

How you can help

1. Pray for people who live in communities affected by floods.

2. To help those affected by disasters you may, send gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Emergency USA " with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.

OR

3. Send gifts payable to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Emergency USA" to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources; Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

OR

4.Make a secure on-line donation to Emergency USA.

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