As flood waters recede, volunteers spring to action

Volunteer crews of members throughout the Northwest sprang into action following some of the most severe flooding of the century.

As flood waters began to recede in devastated areas, Church members joined relief efforts to distribute supplies and begin the formidable task of removing tons of mud from homes and roads.Overall in the Northwest, more than 29 are dead and 150,000 were evacuated from their homes in areas near rivers swollen by heavy rains Dec. 26-Jan. 5. Altogether, more than 100 counties were affected, with 42 in California, where officials said that the state experienced probably the most destructive flooding in its history. In California, Idaho and Nevada, the waters caused an estimated $1.3 billion in damage. Serious flooding also occurred in Washington and Oregon.

Included among LDS homes that were damaged in the flood are some 45 in central California - four beyond repair, 25 in Nevada - five of which were destroyed, and 21 in Idaho, one destroyed.

Some homes in the Colusa Branch in Meridian, Calif., remain inundated by several feet of water and beyond the reach of volunteers, said Pres. Howard T. Garrick of the Yuba City California Stake. However, waters have diminished in nearby Marysville, Calif., where LDS volunteer crews of the Marysville 1st and 2nd wards are ripping out flood-damaged carpets and dry wall. Among volunteers in the area are students of several local LDS institutes who are assisting the Red Cross and other agencies. Meetinghouses have been made available for schools to use, he said.

Pres. Garrick said that among the lost animal stories from his area that were featured on national television, one concerned a member of the Marysville 2nd Ward, Sybil Coldwell, who eventually found her pet dog alive after a long search.

Three local members took prominent roles during the flooding, said Pres. Garrick. One, Jerry Crippen, is the mayor of Marysville. Another, Richard Hall, is a county employee who worked days and nights in flood relief. A third, Bob Harlan, is general manager and announcer on local radio KUBA, which became an authoritative source of information during the emergency.

In Modesto, Calif., hundreds of LDS volunteers are helping families clean up, said Pres. Russell A. Newman of the Modesto California Stake.

"It has been heartwarming to receive calls from stake presidents hundreds of miles away wanting to help," he said. "One stake canceled a trip to the beach for 120 youth and asked how they could help instead. I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of offers to help. Because of the nature of the disaster, it has been difficult to connect the volunteers from out of town with real work, but their offers have been heartwarming."

However, hundreds of local volunteers have been involved in the "real work" of helping at volunteer centers, and sorting donated clothing and canned goods, he said. Scout troops, Young Men and Young Women, and adults are among those who have helped.

"We have had steady and continued participation by ward members, quorums, classes and the auxiliaries in flood relief efforts. Some of these have been at the Red Cross and Salvation Army helping with clothing drives and canned food. One ward made lunch and dinner for the volunteers."

He said that the flooding of a sewage treatment plant resulted in contaminated water that has ruined hundreds of homes in the community, including those of four LDS families.

"We are very fortunate that members have not been affected more dramatically," said Pres. Newman. "In our stake we have have handled the needs of our members, thanks to generous members. But in the community, when you turn names into people and addresses into homes, the effects of the floods have been terrible."

He commented that observers have placed this year's flooding well beyond the 100-year levels.

In the Gresham Oregon Stake one member lost his business in a mud slide on New Year's Eve. "He had a 4,000 square-foot building in which he had inventory," said Bishop Duane Evans of the Damascus Ward. "We got on the phone and made some calls."

Before the end of the day a crew of Church members had moved the inventory from the building, which was totally lost.

More than 250 members from the Weiser Idaho Stake and the Ontario Oregon Stake rallied together Jan. 11 to help flood victims in Weiser where 200 homes were flooded. Working with community organizations, the group learned of 45 families that needed help, mainly with jobs such as removing wet carpet and dry wall from the homes. The volunteers also found dozens of other flood victims who asked for assistance. Weiser Idaho Stake Pres. Vaughn Evern Youngberg estimated that in one day members cleaned out 80 homes, logging more than 1,300 hours of service.

Members who were serving on clean up crews found an older couple just sitting in their wet house. "They were overwhelmed," he said. "They didn't know what to do." Pres. Youngberg said a Church member stayed with them, helped them contact federal relief organizations for assistance and then organized efforts to clean up the house.

"They needed help, but they didn't know where to get it," he explained.

Pres. Youngberg said an LDS volunteer went into one flood victim's home to fix her furnace. "All this lady could talk about were the `angels' who had been there the day before and helped her clean up," Pres. Youngberg said. "It has been really heartwarming.

The membersT are looking out for these people."

Besides cleanup efforts in the area, Pres. Youngberg said Church members have donated clothing, made quilts and volunteered their time to help relief organizations, such as the Red Cross.

"Our biggest problem is that so many people want to help, we just have to rein in their enthusiasm," he said.

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