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N.D. floodwaters overwhelm Faith Church

 
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6:00 P.M. EDT June 24, 2011



The rising Souris River surrounds a house west of Minot , N.D., despite the best sandbagging efforts of the homeowners. A web-only photo used by permission of The Minot Daily News/Chris Aarhus.
The rising Souris River surrounds a house west of Minot , N.D., despite the best sandbagging efforts of the homeowners. A web-only photo used by permission
of The Minot Daily News/Chris Aarhus.

As record floodwaters poured into Minot, N.D., teams of United Methodists continued to help with evacuations despite personal hardship.

The Rev. Lee Gale, disaster response coordinator for the Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference, reported the basement of Faith United Methodist Church covered by floodwater and the water still rising. He said congregants met at the church, acknowledging they will lose their building.

“They had a prayer on the front step before the water got too awfully deep,” Gale said. “It’s kind of a sad day.”

The Rev. Debra Ball-Kilbourne, pastor at Faith and at a congregation in Des Lacs, said her church members were helping with evacuations and also visiting and checking on people.

She said the church in Des Lacs was not flooded, but the water had overtaken homes of some members in that congregation. It may be four to six weeks before residents can return to those areas, she said.

Gale said that 11,000 families have evacuated the city, and those numbers continue to grow. The floodwaters have surrounded a shelter where United Methodists had provided childcare for flood victims, he said.

“The reception center that was established, they have deemed it a dangerous place,” he said.

Worsening conditions

Floodwaters are expected to be 10 feet higher than originally anticipated, Gale said.

News services in Minot, a city of 40,000 in the north central part of the state, reported that water from Lake Darling, north along the Souris or Mouse River, was being released at 26,000 cubic feet per second, and a rainy forecast throughout the weekend was expected to make the situation worse.

“This is going to bypass by far the flood that was pretty devastating in 1969,” Gale said.



The Dakotas Conference will distribute 2,276 health kits to people affected by floods. Photo by Jason Currie-Olson/Embrace UMC.
The Dakotas Conference will distribute 2,276 health kits to people affected by floods. Photo by Jason Currie-Olson/Embrace UMC.
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The Minot Daily News called the 1969 flood “the biggest single event to ever occur in the city.” It caused “thousands upon thousands of dollars” in damage and left residents unable to fight the rising waters. The primary cause of the flooding was the river, known as the Souris in Canada and the Mouse in the United States. The river flows in a U-shape from Canada through Minot.

Some area residents have watched on the Internet as floodwaters inundate their homes, said Ball-Kilbourne’s husband, Gary, a pastor at Vincent United Methodist Church in Minot. “We are aware this is only the beginning of the rise. It’s going to be at least twice as bad as it is now.”

The Friday, June 24, weather forecast for Minot showed a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms that evening, 50 percent chance of thunderstorms Saturday and Saturday night and a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms Sunday and Monday.

“The waters will remain high for a couple weeks before people can even begin to assess the damage,” Gary Ball-Kilbourne said.

Praying together

Vincent Church sits on a hill less than two miles from Faith and has not flooded. Gary Ball-Kilbourne said that Faith and Vincent churches plan to be together soon.

“We will have worship at Vincent Church for both Faith and Vincent on Sunday,” he said. “We have a joint community prayer service that we’re planning for tomorrow night if we can get to it.”

Doreen Gosmire, communicator for the Dakotas Annual (regional) Conference, said congregations in the conference were gathering and storing cleaning buckets to distribute to churches as soon as they are able. She said the conference was also focusing on shelter care.

“On Sunday or Monday, we’ll regroup and try to figure out what ministries we need to have up there,” she said.

Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey was expected to make a video statement late Friday to the churches of Minot.

Considering the bleak situation in Minot, Gary said, “Her words of hope will be welcome.”

*Snell is a United Methodist Communications intern and a senior at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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