July 7, 2007
Water receding in some areas; more flooding expected in others. Flooding is beginning to recede in Kansas and Oklahoma, where the Neosho River crested at the highest level since 1951 at Miami, Oklahoma. However, heavy rain of up to five inches over Tulsa County Thursday will slow the recession.
Outside of Kansas and Oklahoma, reports on flooding have been sketchy. While the United Church of Christ does not have any churches in the impacted areas, we are present ecumenically. Mike Lake, UCC Kansas-Oklahoma Conference disaster response coordinator has been in contact with the state Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster as information is shared about damages. Additionally, the UCC in partnership with Church World Service and the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference via Mike Lake has been in conversation with Rebecca Jim of the Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD) in Miami, OK regarding the effect on this area which is already impacted by lead mining (technology-caused disaster).
Minimally, information about protection against heavy metals during clean up needs to be disseminated to residents and any outside groups coming in to assist. Working with FEMA and Church World Service, the National Disaster Ministries office will provide educational information and material assistance to residents.
At the 2007 General Synod in Hartford, a resolution of witness "Regarding the Tar Creek Superfund Site, Oklahoma" was passed. The text may be found at: http://www.ucc.org/synod/resolutions/tar-creek-superfund-final.pdf. Since June 2004, National Disaster Ministries with Church World Service and the UCC Kansas-Oklahoma Conference have worked with local partners to advocate for a fair solution for residents of the Tar Creek, OK area.
All 77 Oklahoma counties remain under a state of emergency.
Lake Texoma is expected to flow over the spillway early Friday and officials warned residents downstream along the Red River to move what they can to higher ground. By noon Wednesday, the lake was 8 inches below the spillway. Officials said they did not anticipate a majopr evacuation but said the water was expected to be over the spillway for up to two weeks.
Rivers were cresting and floodwaters were receding in some areas, including Bartlesville and Miami. Officials are still keeping people out of the areas until the water has completed receded - which is expected to take days in Miami.
Oklahoma officials said Initial damage assessments showed 836 homes damaged by the flooding in Comanche, Ottawa, Pottawatomie and Washington counties. Of those homes, 240 were destroyed and 286 sustained major damage. Another 43 multi-family residences were damaged or destroyed. Businesses also were destroyed or sustained major damage but the exact numbers were not released.
Hundreds of people are still out of their homes across southeast Kansas. In Coffeyville, a town of 11,000 near the Kansas-Oklahoma border, the Verdigris River sent hundreds of residents out of their homes earlier this week. The flooding also forced an oil spill at a refinery in town. The spill is said to not have affected the drinking water, but residents are still urged to drink bottled water at this time or boil water before consumption.
A town meeting will be held Thursday to update citizens on the relief operations. The Coffeyville Ministerial Alliance is gathering food and small furnishing donations at First United Methodist Church (FUMC). Church member Linda Bever said her church was taking in the food for the local shelters to draw from. She anticipated the church doing more once the recovery phase begins.
For now, just seeing what the flooding has done is shocking, she said.
"Now that the water is starting to recede, the odor is monumental," said Bever, a 20-year resident of Coffeyville. "It'll be a long recovery, but we'll get in there and clean it up. It's awful right now, but we'll survive."
She said Coffeyville residents have been doing well in a tough situation - especially since the city water is mostly off-limits as they do tests and refill the reservoir. She added that some people she knows have been traveling into Bartlesville, OK, to do laundry and take showers.
The spirit of the residents is great, Bever said, and everyone is offering assistance and lending a hand to their neighbors. That help, she added, will be needed in such a hard-hit town.
"I've seen some bad disasters - tornadoes and floods before in other parts of Kansas - but this one tops it all for this area," she said.
In eastern Kansas' Osawatomie, city inspectors were assessing damages now that much of the water has receded. Power was restored to 60 homes late Wednesday.
Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Butler, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Coffey, Cowley, Crawford, Elk, Franklin, Greenwood, Labette, Linn, Miami, Montgomery, Neosho, Osage, Wilson, and Woodson counties all received federal disaster declarations Tuesday. Officials from the Kansas Emergency Management Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will assess damages again Thursday in Osawatomie and Coffeyville.
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.
3. Send gifts, made out 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.
4. Make a secure on-line donation.
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