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Soggy Illinois struggles under more flooding

By United Methodist News Service*
June 13, 2008

United Methodist disaster response teams from Illinois were assessing needs after major flooding in the state's southeastern counties.

The June 10 flooding led to more problems as the water system for the town of Lawrenceville, with 4,600 residents, stopped working the next day, according to The Associated Press. Some 200 residents evacuated after levee breaks and could not return home because of flooded roads.

The latest heavy rains arrived after two floods hit the Pontiac and Watseka area in February, while two March floods hit the southern part of the United Methodist Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference. Both regions received a $10,000 grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief at the request of Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher.

No additional funds have been requested yet for the most recent storms, although assessment teams asked for support from the conference's disaster response fund, according to Paul Black, conference communications director.

Flooding from the Embarras and Wabash rivers on June 10 left several areas under water. More than 200 families were displaced in Lawrence County, but the need for housing has been addressed by friends and neighbors, according to reports from emergency officials contacted by the Rev. Alan Rhein, Kaskaskia River district superintendent, and members of the conference disaster relief team.

In Coles County, Mission in Motion, driven by Diane Walrath, arrived in Oakland on June 11 with 150 flood buckets and 300 health kits from the Midwest Mission Distribution Center, according to Judy Doyle, the disaster response chairperson.

Although Oakland was not inundated by floodwaters from overflowing rivers, 11 inches of rain and clogged storm drains devastated the small eastern Illinois community. The Rev. Chuck Shelquist organized a group of volunteers to help unload the supplies as cleanup continued.

Coles County was hit from two fronts––flooding and a tornado that formed near the tiny village of Lerna southeast of Mattoon causing damage to about 70 buildings on June 6.

Neighboring Indiana

A volunteer sorts through clothing at Asbury United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ind., site of an UMCOR flood relief center. A UMNS photo by David Powell.

Meanwhile, floodwaters receded across central Indiana, where the Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared 21 counties as disaster areas. UMCOR has sent $10,000 in initial relief and established a relief center for flood survivors at Asbury United Methodist Church in Columbus. First United Methodist Church, also in Columbus, is playing a major role helping families of floor survivors with food, shelter and clothing.

More than 1,000 flood buckets were distributed across Indiana from the United Methodist-related Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham, Ill., through churches and American Red Cross centers in Terre Haute, Worthington, Franklin and Columbus.

United Methodist volunteers were assisting flooded families in cleaning their houses in Franklin, Columbus and Edinburgh.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels toured flooded areas June 12 and told reporters he had hoped the agricultural damage would be limited. "It appears much more likely that the damage is severe and will not be salvageable in many cases for the balance of this year," he said, noting that many farmers say it is unlikely than can replant this year.

Donations for UMCOR's relief efforts in the Midwest can be made to Domestic Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670. Checks can be dropped in church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write the Advance number and name on the memo line of the check. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or online at www.givetomission.org.

*Information for this report was provided by Paul Black, director of communications for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, and Dan Gangler, director of communications for the church's Indiana Area.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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