'Overwhelming' Midwest floods draw SBDR response
"This is overwhelming us," said Frank McCrary, disaster relief director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists (KNCSB). "We've already called to our region for backup."
Heavy rain and melting snow have caused rivers to reach historic levels in 41 locations across the Midwest, according to Weather.com, with ice chunks from wintry floodwaters piled 10 feet high in some regions. Two people have died from flooding in Nebraska and one in Iowa. Two others are missing and presumed dead in Nebraska.
In Sarpy County, Neb., alone, 500 homes have been ruined by floodwaters, according to media reports. The total number of damaged homes across the region is estimated to be much greater.
SBDR teams from at least seven Baptist state conventions have volunteered to assist teams from the KNCSB and the Baptist Convention of Iowa, according to reports from McCrary and the North American Mission Board.
In Hornick, Iowa, where virtually all of the town's 60-70 houses have been damaged, Iowa pastor Bob Dillman began leading a mudout team today (March 18). When Dillman spoke to Baptist Press, his team was helping its first local resident clean and remove damaged furniture from a flooded house. At least 15 other Hornick residents signed up for assistance.
"We're the hands and feet of Christ," said Dillman, associate pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa. "So we just love on [flood victims]. We prayed this morning before we went out, 'Give us opportunity to share the Gospel.'"
Hornick residents are "up and down" emotionally, with some planning to rebuild and others resigned to walk away from their devastated residences, Dillman said. After historic floods in 1998, "they thought it would never happen again. Well, it did."
McCrary told BP that Kansas-Nebraska teams are on standby for mudout work. "We have to wait until the water goes down until we can do our mudout operations," he said.
To date, at least 56 Nebraska counties have issued emergency declarations, and floodwaters continue to rise, McCrary said. Some Nebraska church basements have flooded, but no church that cooperates with the KNCSB has reported major damage to its facilities.
Nebraskans who have "lost everything" are "devastated," said McCrary, who worked with flooded residents as a DR chaplain March 17.
In Missouri, DR leaders mobilized volunteers "to assist with sandbags in St. Joseph over the weekend," said Eric Barb, DR systems coordinator for the Missouri Baptist Convention. DR teams are poised to respond to flooding in Missouri if necessary.
"There is still potential for flooding as areas in the north are still getting water and all of the ice and snow from the winter hasn't completely melted yet," Barb said via email. "All of that could melt and make its way into the Missouri and then Mississippi Rivers. We are keeping our eyes out for any potential issues in the days and weeks to come."
National SBDR Director Sam Porter told BP "SBDR is planning with Kansas-Nebraska and Iowa state DR directors to bring in SBDR volunteers to assist when the areas flooded are able to be accessible."
In the meantime, locals are doing their best to help one another.
"Here in the Midwest," McCrary said, "we take care of each other."