'Tremendous teamwork' in flood relief efforts

"Tremendous teamwork" was the way Bishop Edward John of the Kearny (Ariz.) Ward described the relief efforts of Church members and the community during recent severe flooding here.

After the LDS meetinghouse in Kearny was temporarily established as a Red Cross center, members and others from the area combined to staff the facility."We had total support," Bishop John told the Church News. "We, in essence, became the Red Cross. With about an equal number of people from the Church and the community, we manned the center for 24 hours a day. We fed an average of about 25 people per day with a high of 108 people."

Bishop John said the worst of the flooding occurred Jan. 21-25, when roads were flooded and Kearny became isolated from surrounding communities. The crisis began Jan. 5, as heavy rains started deluging the area. Pres. James C. Watts of the Globe Arizona Stake said, "We got a year's supply of rain in the first two weeks of the year."

Normal rainfall here, said Bishop John, is 17 inches a year. By Jan. 23, 13 inches had fallen in the area, which includes the communities of Kearny, Winkelman, Hayden, Dudleyville, Kelven and Riverside - all within the Kearny Ward. Kearny is about 45 miles south of Globe. There are approximately 400 Latter-day Saints in the ward.

By Jan. 10, "everyone was in panic," Bishop John related. "There were 53 homes lost in Winkelman. The homes were under at least four feet of water - some homes clear to the roof. The people had been evacuated." He added that two homes were also lost in Riverside. Pres. Watts surmised that most of the homes that were severely flooded will be condemned.

During the flooding, three LDS families lost their homes. There were no serious injuries to LDS or non-LDS.

By Jan. 11, the Red Cross contacted the Kearny Ward and requested the meetinghouse for a relief facility. Permission was granted and the bishops storehouse in Mesa sent a shipment of relief supplies, including sleeping bags, tents, blankets, food, sanitary supplies, and camp stoves and lanterns. In addition, an LDS amateur radio operator in Mesa was used as a contact with the bishops storehouse and the Church in Salt Lake City, Pres. Watts explained.

The storms went from bad to worse - pouring down rain every other day through about Jan. 25, when the water flow peaked. One of the reasons for the quick response by members, Bishop John said, was because residents learned from flooding in the area in 1983. The Red Cross used the meetinghouse as a relief facility then, as well. "Because of 1983, we were ready," he related. - Julie A. Dockstader

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