Members in five western states are among thousands turned refugee because of "100-year flood levels" surging through the region since the first of the year.
According to the Associated Press, thousands of homes and businesses in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Nevada have been flooded in the wake of severe winter storms, followed by unseasonably warm temperatures during and after the Christmas holidays.Dozens of LDS families were evacuated from their homes - some with whole communities - with many still displaced.
"Hundred-year floods are just that," explained Modesto California Stake Pres. Russell A. Newman. "You don't expect this to happen in less than 100 years. This is just such an event."
As of Jan. 5, at least 27 people have been killed with a 28th presumed dead in the wake of the floods. No Church members were reported killed as a direct result of the floods, although three Latter-day Saints died in a weather-related plane crash. (Please see related article on this page.) Estimates of how many homes were lost and how many were damaged are sketchy as waters continue to recede. Many affected locations are still inaccessible. Reports from the five states are as follows:
In Modesto, Calif., some 80 miles east of San Francisco, "Several homes were evacuated
including 20 LDS familiesT," Pres. Newman said. "It will be a few days before flood waters recede sufficiently to get members back in and for ward leaders to ascertain needs."
He explained that several rivers and tributaries flow in and around Modesto. "The major reservoirs to the east have become so full from the snow pack melting that officials have had to release incredible volumes of water; we are talking about 45,000 cubic feet per second," he said.
Concerning relief efforts, Pres. Newman reported that members from unaffected areas have "pitched in" with the Red Cross and taking in other Latter-day Saints who were evacuated.
Among other affected stakes in Northern California are Yuba City, Eureka, Redding, Chico and Gridley. Yuba City is the agent stake for Church welfare and disaster preparedness for the surrounding area, said Ricky R. Kent, first counselor to Yuba City California Stake Pres. Howard Garrick.
He added that some 30 evacuated members from stricken areas have been staying in the Loma Rica Ward meetinghouse. In addition, affected LDS in the Marysville 1st and 2nd Ward have been staying with members at Beale Air Force Base, which is within 2nd ward boundaries. Pres. Kent said the base is housing about 6,000 displaced people.
He added that the Colusa Branch meetinghouse sheltered about 40 people for a short time, and the Chico stake center was being used as a Red Cross center. The city itself was not flooded, according to Pres. Kent.
In the Gridley stake, the town of Oroville was evacuated, as well as the east part of Gridley, but residents have since returned to their homes. In the Redding 4th and 6th wards, there was some flooding. The institute building adjacent to Shasta College had minor carpet damage. In the Eureka stake on the northwest California coast, McKinleyville Ward members had some flooding in their homes and had been without phone lines.
"About every town" in the Weiser Idaho Stake was affected, said Pres. Vaughn Youngberg. He noted that about 16 member families in Payette had damage to their homes, with one house possibly destroyed; while the homes of three or four LDS families in the Cambridge/Midvale area suffered water damage. As of Jan. 6, the stake had received no report on the Riggins Branch on the Salmon River. Phone lines were down, a ham radio operator was unreachable and roads were impassable, said Pres. Youngberg. "I've even contacted the stake president in Lewiston
about 80 miles northwest of RigginsT, and he's sending someone
to check on membersT."
As to relief efforts, Pres. Youngberg said a meetinghouse in Weiser was being used as a Red Cross shelter, and members from the Cambridge area had helped feed some 60-90 flood victims.
In the Reno Nevada Stake, where about eight to 10 LDS homes were lost or severely damaged in flooding in Carson City, the light of service is burning brightly. Stake Pres. Timothy John Dyches reported that members have been filling sandbags in stricken areas. "We have a lot of people willing to donate help," he added.
In Seattle, part of the roof of the Deseret Industries facility caved in. There were no injuries, but there is a concern in putting the employees back to work as soon as repairs can be made, said James L. Jackson, first counselor in the Seattle Washington North Stake presidency.
Pres. Jackson added that two member families in the Seattle 1st Ward were evacuated from an area where houses are slipping toward Puget Sound. Generally, however, damage has been limited to flooded basements, he added.
James C. Perry, president of the Seattle stake, said the cultural hall floor in the Seattle 2nd Ward meetinghouse has buckled from water damage. The major problem for members was loss of electrical power.
In the Marysville Washington Stake, Pres. Keith Leonard reported that three LDS families in the Marysville 2nd Ward living in a trailer court were evacuated because of water and power shut offs. Other than basement flooding, there was no severe damage to LDS homes.
Pres. Paul Clayson of the Portland Oregon Stake reported that about 10 families from the Mount Scott Ward were evacuated during flooding in early December, but no serious flooding had occurred since. However, he said ice storms struck the day after Christmas, causing widespread power outages. The power has since been restored.
Von Freeman of the Gresham Oregon Stake said eight to 10 families in the Blue Lake Ward were without power the week of Christmas due to freezing rains and ice storms. Power has since been restored.