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United Methodists help evacuate Minot

 
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June 22, 2011


A man in Minot, N.D., walks beside rising waters where sandbags are stacked to help create a dike. Waters are predicted to rise eight feet more. A web-only photo used by permission of the Minot Daily News/Kim Fundingsland.
A man in Minot, N.D., walks beside rising waters where sandbags are stacked to help create a dike. Waters are predicted to rise eight feet more. A web-only photo used by permission of the Minot Daily News/Kim Fundingsland.

Teams of North Dakota United Methodists were helping evacuate residents of Minot as floodwaters threatened the city June 22.

“The river is rising quite steadily and there’s going to be some definite issues with 11,000 people trying to get out at one time,” said the Rev. Lee Gale, North Dakota disaster response coordinator for the United Methodist Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference.

The National Guard had added four feet to the dikes around the river, which flows through Minot, a city of 40,000, and members of the guard walked the area every 30 minutes Wednesday morning to check for breaches, Gale reported.

The town has two United Methodist churches – Faith and Vincent. Faith is in the flood plain. Its pastor, the Rev. Debra Ball-Kilbourne, arrived a year ago after serving as the bishop’s assistant for disaster response.

The river causing the problems is known as the Souris in Canada and as the Mouse -- its translation from French -- in North Dakota. “The water that’s coming down to North Dakota will wind its way back to Canada again,” Ball-Kilbourne explained. “It’s very much a U-shape.”

The congregation expects the floodwaters to engulf the church’s basement-level food pantry, which served 45,000 meals last year. Ball-Kilbourne, whose home is high on a hill, piled canned goods in her garage and stuffed frozen items in her freezer “so we can start up again for the first meal.” Other food and clothing from the program was distributed to various organizations.


Floodwaters from the Missouri River surround this home and many others south of rural Bismarck.  A web-only photo used by permission  of the Bismarck Tribune/Mike McCleary.
Floodwaters from the Missouri River surround this home and many others south of rural Bismarck. A web-only photo used by permission of the Bismarck Tribune/Mike McCleary.

How high the water will go at Faith church is unknown. “We’re not sure if it will get to the sanctuary, but we saved everything that we could,” she said. She added that the congregation can worship at Vincent church, where her husband, Gary, serves as pastor.

Ball-Kilbourne said she is concerned about her other congregation in Des Lacs. That city is not expected to flood, but some members live in nearby Burlington, which was evacuated Wednesday morning. “We’ve been in touch with most of those families today,” she said.

Gale was on his way to set up a reception center in Bismarck, 110 miles south of Minot, for evacuees from floods around the state. United Methodists have been assigned to provide child care while their parents register for assistance.

About 200 United Methodist volunteers are providing flood-related assistance in Minot and Bismarck, he estimated.

Bismarck is under a flood threat from the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea, swollen from melting snowpack in Montana. If the outflow from the dam is raised, Gale said, it “will have a great effect on Bismarck and everything downstream.”

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is assisting conferences affected by recent weather disasters. Donations can be made to UMCOR’s “Spring Storms 2011” response.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.

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

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