Wave of relief follows flood

Members of the Church here are joining others in cleaning up in the wake of what Pres. Gregory Widman of the Albany Georgia Stake calls "the second 500-year flood in four years."

"We were a little more prepared this time," Pres. Widman said, referring to July 1994 floods that left some 20,000 homeless, with 50-60 members evacuated from their homes. This year, he explained, about 12,000 - including about 20 Latter-day Saint families from the Leesburg and Albany wards - were evacuated from their homes before the nearby Flint River reached its crest the weekend of March 14."When we saw the tell-tale signs, we got busy real fast," he explained. On Sunday, March 8, he related, "We had just finished a branch conference in Americus, Ga. Normally, it's a 40-minute drive home. It took me 21/2 hours because of flooded-out roads. I had the impression to get out and check our members."

Bishops Kurt Anderson and Frederick Lewis of the Albany and Leesburg wards, respectively, began visiting members and started a telephone campaign to check on members' conditions.

"We realized the water was rising even faster than we thought, so we got people moved. We started evacuation efforts Sunday afternoon and into Monday and Tuesday. Close to 100 people were moving people out of danger to higher ground and moving possessions.

"As a result," Pres. Widman said, "not one personal possession was lost. There's been some house damage."

The stake president said he had contacted the area presidency and the bishop's storehouse in Atlanta. "They're standing by with truckloads of clothing and relief supplies" for area residents in need.

The meetinghouse in Albany is being used as an emergency shelter for flood victims, and individual members are reaching out to those in need. For example, Pres. Widman said he spent an evening at nearby emergency shelters helping a Church investigator, Bill Harmon, hand out some 800 coats to victims.

"He was taking the discussions from some missionaries up in his area in Ellijay, and apparently they communicated to him about the welfare program. He wanted to be a part. He came down here and really went to town," Pres. Widman added.

The stake president added that Church members will continue with relief efforts as long as they are needed.

Georgia is just one area throughout the world affected recently by storms and flooding as El Nino continues altering weather patterns around the globe. In southwest Alabama, Pres. Gerald Gause of the Dothan stake reported two member families were evacuated from their homes in Elba, Ala., which is in the Enterprise Ward boundaries. He said their homes were not flooded, but road conditions threatened isolation.

He said that another family in the nearby Geneva Branch had to have its mobile home moved to higher ground. In addition, the roof of an elderly member had been leaking and was fixed by members.

"The stake is planning a service day," Pres. Gause continued. "We have offered our services to the emergency management organization and the Red Cross in Elba."

The stake president said the service day was planned for Saturday, March 21.

"We've canceled our stake basketball tournament," Pres. Gause noted. Instead of playing basketball, he said from 100-150 members will help clean out flood victims' homes and businesses.

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