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LDS MOP UP AFTER WASHINGTON FLOODS

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Members of the Church in the Pacific Northwest began clean-up efforts after heavy rains flooded much of western Washington and parts of Vancouver Island in British Columbia on Nov. 23-24.

Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi, first counselor in the North America Northwest Area presidency, reported all members and full-time missionaries have been accounted for and no Church meetinghouses had been damaged, although homes of many members were flooded."We are still finding out the extent of the flooding," he said. "The members are really helping each other. Stakes are trying to contact all members to find out their needs. The local leaders are doing a tremendous job and we are pleased with their efforts. Stakes contacted in heavy hit areas in Washington reported that approximately 45 homes of members were damaged in the flood, one of the worst floods in Washington state history.

The area northeast of Seattle appeared to be the hardest hit, Elder Kikuchi said. Fortunately, members in the area faired well, he said. In the Mt. Vernon stake, about 12 families were evacuated from their flooded homes, said Pres. John Dickson.

The bishop's storehouse in Mt. Vernon was also flooded, but members removed merchandise from lower shelves and pumped the water out of the building.

In the Marysville stake, Pres. Craig Morrison reported that about 12 homes of members were also flooded, mostly after dikes built around the Snohomish and Skykomish Rivers broke.

In the Renton stake, four families in the Maple Valley Ward were flooded out of their homes in a trailer court near the Cedar River.

"We are waiting until the water goes down and then we have people from several wards and full-time missionaries prepared to go in to clean up," said Renton stake Pres. William Pendleton. "Many members were out there trying to save the homes, sandbagging until 10 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 24) and they just couldn't stop the water. Some homes are under four feet of water."

Renton North stake Pres. R. Bruce Merrell said 17 homes of members were flooded, mostly in the Snoqualmie Valley Ward and in the North Bend Ward. Several families were able to return to their homes, but others are temporarily housed at the ward meetinghouse or in homes of members.

Dave Perry, bishop in the Snoqualmie Valley Ward, said members spent Nov. 24 rescuing families from their homes near the forks of the Snoqualmie River. Because of strong currents, power boats were used to get the members and non-members out of the area.

"There was a great outpouring of love in all this, he said. We had over 100 volunteers show up on Sunday to help. Food was donated to members, so much that 500 pounds of canned goods were left to donate to the local food bank."

Pres. Merrell added, "It's been a good experience for the members of the ward to see the response. Bishop Perry had tears in his eyes when he saw others from the stake help clean and bring in meals for workers. It has been a great building effort for everyone."

Washington Seattle Mission Pres. James Macfarlane said, "Missionaries have been helping all through this in sandbagging and working late at night to make sure the peoples' homes are OK."

Missionaries in the Washington Tacoma Mission joined members in sandbagging efforts in the Puyallup area near the Puyallup River. There were no reports of major damage to homes in the area.

In the Seattle area, a number of members living on Mercer Island were limited in their travel after one of three bridges connected to the mainland was washed out. A second bridge was damaged as well, but a third bridge is still intact. No flooding has been reported at members' homes.

About 110,000 vehicles travel across the floating bridges on Lake Washington every day.

The Associated Press reported that 20 rivers overflowed their banks and high water records were set at five of them. In a 24-hour period - from Nov. 23-24 - 5.82 inches of rain fell in Olympia, the state capital, and 3.56 inches fell at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

More than 3,000 people fled their homes over the weekend because of the flooding.

James Ely, the Church's Seattle Service Center manager for Northwest Storehouses and Canneries, said every county in Western Washington was affected by the flood in some way. State officials estimate about $500 million in losses throughout Western Washington.

"Everybody is helping everybody and it's gratifying to see how people work together to help their brother," he added.