The last week and a half have been a busy time for disaster response around the U.S. As wildfires continue to rage throughout Colorado, Montana and surrounding states, there have also been record breaking rainfall in Northeast Minnesota that led to flash flooding. Florida Tropical Storm Debbie drenched much of the state leading to rivers cresting past flood levels. Below is an overview of these disasters and how our church is responding.
Currently four separate wildfires have consumed over 20,000 acres destroying 600 structures and threatening thousands more. The fire has led to one death and a handful of injuries. It is hoped that all fires will be completely contained by the middle of July. The fires have also led to the evacuation of Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp, one ELCA pastor losing his home and one ELCA congregation having 95 percent of its members evacuated.
Our local partner, Lutheran Family Services of Colorado has activated its disaster response program and is assessing the situation. Much of this work involves connecting with local ELCA congregations and church bodies, like the ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod, to determine the need and appropriate response. We are helping to evacuate several foster homes and are working with United Way to find alternative housing. Funds have also been disbursed to help Sky Ranch as they continue to host their outdoor ministry at a Presbyterian Camp. To learn more about the situation at Sky Ranch see the previous post Ministry Amidst the Flames.
Wildfires are also threatening parts of the ELCA Montana Synod. The Rev. Amanda Liggett of Zion Lutheran Church in Roundup, Mont. said, “We’re doing alright. Lots of people have lost a great deal in the last 24 hours, but no human lives as far as I know.”
We are working with local partners to assist in the evacuation of two assisted living centers, one in Ashland, Mont. and one on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. In conjunction with St. John’s Lutheran Ministries and Lutheran Social Services of Montana, we are helping to provide food, toiletries and medical supplies.
Northeast Minnesota Flash Flooding
Last week Duluth experienced its wettest two days on record receiving over seven inches of rain in 48 hours. The affect was massive flash flooding that destroyed roads and homes, even picking up and moving vehicles. The city of Moose Lake was unreachable for five days because of high waters. In the early assessment much of the damage seems to be infrastructure, yet many basements are flooded and one member of the Northeast Minnesota staff lost their home. Hope Lutheran, an ELCA congregation in Moose Lake, was flooded but did not sustain any major damage.
Our local partner, Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, is working to assess the situation and future needs. They are working through the United Way to coordinate volunteers and focusing on setting up and managing a long term recovery committee. This committee will help oversee the recovery until it is finished (a process of many months and possibly years). They are also working with ELCA congregation Hope Lutheran to host Camp Noah starting August 20th.
Tropical Storm Debbie Hits Florida
Tropical Storm Debbie brought heavy rains over many days that led to sporadic flooding and many rivers cresting above flood stage. Assessment is still on going as some rivers have still not yet crested. The state is reporting four fatalities associated with the flooding. There have been no reports of affected ELCA congregations or members.
Lutheran Services of Florida, our affiliate in the state, is continuing to stay connected with ELCA churches and church bodies in the area as they assess the situation. They have been putting together flood buckets for distribution in more affected areas, like Hudson.
While the hard work of first responders and local agencies continues please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers. Also pray for our local ELCA congregations, church bodies and affiliates as they continue their work of being church even in the midst of disaster. May God give them strength, patience and wisdom.
Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond at home and globally in times of need. Donate now.