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Rivers continue to crest; disaster relief units ready

MIAMI, Okla. (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief crews in Kansas and Oklahoma are bracing for a busy Fourth of July week as floodwaters are rising in the two states.

“Once the state tells us where to set up our units, we’ll mobilize,” said John Lucas, disaster relief coordinator for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. “We just don’t know the scope of the disaster yet. The rivers are still rising. A lot of the flooded territory is farmland. Whole farms are under water.”

Lucas said once the floodwaters recede, Kansas also will need help with mud-out operations.

He said a Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptist feeding unit in Greensburg, Kan. -– in operation since a devastating tornado practically leveled the entire town on May 4 -– completed operations only last week and will be re-deployed at a flood-affected site.

No churches have been affected by the flooding, reported Bob Mills, the two-state convention’s missions director.

“We’ve just had constant bombardment of rain over the past several days,” Mills said. Particularly in the southeast corner of Kansas, “they’ve had all they can handle,” he said.

In Oklahoma, “We’re ramping up and the Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief team is on alert,” said Sam Porter, disaster relief coordinator for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

Porter was traveling from Oklahoma City to Miami, Okla., a small town of 10,000 located an hour northeast of Tulsa. Unless floodwaters subside, Porter said Miami could become an island -– temporarily shut off to the outside world.

“Emergency managers made the decision to ask Miami people to stay put, rather than evacuate,” Porter said.

Porter has mobilized the Oklahoma Baptists’ large feeding unit, and 25-30 volunteers are racing to Miami to get the unit up and running to serve some 2,000 meals a day. Floodwaters in Miami are not predicted to subside until Friday, July 6.

“We also have 13 smaller feeding units on standby,” Porter said. “We’re just going to deal with what we can.” He said mud-out crews would not be called in until later, after the floodwaters crest.

At Lake Texoma just south of Kingston, the water is four feet from the spillway and likely will start flooding this evening, Porter reported. The water has only gone over the spillway twice since it was built in 1940. Men from Johnston Marshall and Bryan Baptist associations are sandbagging around homes near the lake.

In Texas, with 11 deaths and millions of dollars in property damage already sustained from flash floods in June, Texans braced themselves for the possibility of more rain throughout north and central regions of the state as July began.

President Bush declared Texas a major disaster area on June 29, with federal aid ordered for Cooke, Coryell, Denton, Grayson, Lampasas and Tarrant counties. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has declared 37 Texas counties disaster areas, the governor’s office reported.

Disaster relief volunteers with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention continued feeding operations in Weatherford, Texas, about 50 miles west of Fort Worth in Parker County, where more than 200 families were displaced because of rising waters near the Brazos River, said Jim Richardson, SBTC disaster relief director.

“The rain won’t quit,” Richardson said. “Floods of monumental proportion — very similar to what you’d see in a major hurricane. We’re assisting as we can right now with mass care and waiting for the waters to recede so we can help people clean up.”

Meanwhile, another 175 families were displaced by four-foot floodwaters in a Wichita Falls neighborhood because of the overflowing Wichita River, the Associated Press reported.

Two weeks earlier, SBTC teams worked amid water-damaged homes in a mobile home park in Haltom City, Texas, near Fort Worth, where one child died when she was carried away by rushing floodwaters during a rescue attempt on June 18.

June brought the most rain in 25 years to the Dallas area — 11.1 inches — and fell shy of the all-time record of 11.58 inches in 1928, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Six of the flood-related deaths occurred on June 18 as heavy rain devastated parts of Tarrant, Denton, Cooke and Grayson counties, with damage most severe in Cooke and Grayson counties from Interstate 35 near Gainesville east to Sherman, about 90 miles north of Dallas.

On July 2, the search for two missing men in Leander, north of Austin, continued.

Also, heavy rains hit southeast Texas in the early morning July 2, flooding roads in areas, the AP reported.

In the week after the June 18 flooding at the mobile home park in Haltom City, SBTC disaster relief volunteers assessed several dozen mobile homes in the lowest part of the neighborhood, helping clean up those homes that were salvageable.

The dead in Texas include 4-year-old Alexandria Collins of Haltom City, whom officials said was whisked away from her mother’s grasp as the two were trying to flee in a neighbor’s boat, and 2-year-old Makalya Marie Mollenhour, whose body was found June 19 about two and a half miles south of the Pecan Grove Mobile Home Park in Gainesville.

Also among the dead: 75-year-old Reginald Gattis, a member of First Baptist Church in Sherman.
Based on reporting by Bob Nigh, Art Toalston & Jerry Pierce.

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