Continued flooding in the midwestern United States has poured more hardship down on people, provided service opportunities in many communities and dampened a bit of Church history.
The flooding has affected nine states, caused billions of dollars in damages to agriculture and property, forced thousands of families from their homes, and been blamed for at least 42 deaths.It has also been a "great opportunity for building bridges of understanding between faiths in the community," said J.T. Whitworth, director of public affairs for the North America Central Area.
So far, local Church leaders have taken care of the needs of the members in individual areas and have coordinated volunteer efforts, Brother Whitworth said, adding that the big push will come when cleanup starts.
ST. LOUIS, MO.
Members of the Church in the St. Louis area attended sacrament meeting in work clothes on July 18 and then responded to a call for volunteers to help with sandbags, according to Kaye Reeve, St. Louis Missouri South Stake public affairs director.
"Although various Church families and auxiliary organizations had provided assistance prior to Sunday, this was the first collective effort by the St. Louis Missouri South Stake," said stake Pres. Dee Bankhead. "We estimate more than 200 members from our stake alone worked side by side with Arnold [Mo.T residents to hold back the flood waters."
Four other area stakes also provided assistance, according to Sister Reeve.
Members were contacted Saturday night and Sunday morning by their respective visiting and home teachers, and were asked to wear protective clothing and to bring shovels, gloves, hats and water jugs to their sacrament meeting.
The Forest Park Ward music leader, Lezli Finch, led the congregation in a chorus of "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel," the sacrament was administered, and then members were dismissed to report to the city of Arnold's Operations Control Center. There, members and other volunteers boarded school buses and were transported to areas in need of reinforcements.
The entire community toiled under extremely difficult conditions, sweat-soaked in record heat and humidity ranging in the high 90s. Workers were immunized against tetanus and hepatitis by Red Cross volunteers, freshened with cold, canned water and revitalized with bologna sandwiches.
In spite of all efforts, the Arnold levee broke the following day flooding many homes, including three belonging to members of the Church. Pres. Bankhead reported that the members of his stake would join forces again to assist with cleanup.
JEFFERSON CITY, MO.
The young women in the Jefferson City Ward donated their time to the Salvation Army's flood relief efforts, Brother Whitworth said. The young women helped unload trucks and sorted donated clothing.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D.
Bishop William H. Foster of the Sioux Falls 2nd Ward had the subfloor in his basement destroyed when severe flooding caused the sewers to back up into his home, according to Janet Kruckenberg, director of public affairs for the Fargo North Dakota Region. All the basement carpeting was ruined and the Fosters, like most victims, didn't have flood insurance.
Jackie Hocklander of Brandon, S.D., and a member of the Sioux Falls 2nd Ward, also related tales of a flooded basement. She said there were water marks left on food storage cans stacked in the basement that showed how high the water had risen. The Fosters and Hocklanders used a mixture of water and chlorine bleach to kill mold and mildew caused by the flooding.
Members of the Fargo North Dakota Stake were also hit by flooding, according to Sister Kruckenberg.
Teri Zollinger of Moorhead, Minn., the stake Young Women president, reported only a few inches of water in her family's home almost led to disaster. Her husband, Richard, a counselor in the Fargo Ward bishopric, and her sons had to bail water out of the basement with buckets.
Sister Zollinger was rushed to the hospital when she was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes coming from a gas-powered sump pump.
She said there was also a fire in the home. Moving as fast as they could to get boxes out of the water in the basement, family members put the boxes on any available, dry surface. Some boxes were put on a stove that had a burner on.
Other boxes were slid under a baby crib and preschooler Taylor crawled behind them and went to sleep. When the fire started, family and friends searched frantically for Taylor and were afraid he had been overcome by smoke. Then someone noticed a small toe sticking out from behind the boxes under the crib and took Taylor to safety.
When water started to rise in the yard of Fargo Ward members Alan and Ana Miller of Casselton, N.D., other members came to their rescue. Brother Miller, a television newscaster, was working late into the evening as the water started to rise. When he finally got home, several Church members were there helping place sand bags to protect the Millers' home.
Parts of the historic Mormon Trail through southwestern Iowa have been affected by the flooding, according to William G. Hartley, an associate research professor with the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at BYU and an authority on the Mormon Trail.
He said the communities along the Mormon Trail are proud of their distinction and try to incorporate tourist traffic into local economies.
"This year there's no sense trying to see the Mormon Trail there," Brother Hartley said. "The tourist season has been killed . . . and tourism means so much to Van Buren County."
He said the Iowa stretch from Farmington to Keosauqua is one of the most interesting on the entire Mormon Trail.
Some of the trail through that area, along with parts of communities the pioneers passed through during their trek, such as Bonaparte and Bentonsport, were flooded, said Mark Shaner, president of the Keosauqua Branch of the Nauvoo Illinois Stake.
Brother Hartley said that one historic building in Bentonsport, the Mason House Inn, has been saved through volunteer efforts. The building is believed to have been constructed by Mormon pioneers to earn money for the exodus west.
Owners of the bed and breakfast inn told Brother Hartley that a sandbag wall three to five feet high wasn't going to be high enough to turn away flooding of the Des Moines River. So volunteers responded to an emergency call and doubled the height and thickness of the wall.
Flooding hasn't severely affected Nauvoo, but has had a big impact, according to James Sorensen, manager of Nauvoo Restoration Inc.
"We've had sunshine for two days," he said on July 26. "We just wish we had some tourists. We have more missionaries in Nauvoo than visitors."
Accessibility is Nauvoo's biggest problem. Flooded roads and closed or restricted bridges make it difficult to get to the historic site. On top of that, according to Brother Sorensen, news reports would lead people to believe everything is under water.
He said Nauvoo Pageant organizers are still standing behind their decision to cancel the event because of transportation problems and devastation caused by flooding along the Mississippi and other rivers in the midwest.
"But all other activities are going full bore," he said.