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Relief efforts after Northwest floods

Members and missionaries from 21 stakes in western Washington gathered in droves on Saturday Dec. 8 to help fellow members and neighbors in the Centralia Washington Stake clean up in the aftermath of severe flooding. Nearly 3000 members wearing Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts scattered among affected communities including the hard-hit Adna Centralia and Tenino wards cleaning out mud and debris which in some homes was 5-feet deep.
Photo by Stephen Daniels-BrownVolunteers from among members of 21 stakes in western Washington gather outside Centralia Washington Stake Center on Dec. 8 in preparation for day of service in aftermath of Northwest floods in early December.
There are a ton of stories non-members telling us they didnt know where to start then these (people in) yellow shirts showed up and started cleaning. The tender mercies of the Lord have been poured out upon our stake Centralia Stake President Norman E. Hansen told the Church News. President Hansen said one farmer told him I couldnt believe the yellow shirts.
In the wake of flooding caused by a powerful Pacific storm which deluged the area Dec. 3-4 homes and roads were buried or inundated with muddy water and mud slides. Among the affected were some 30 homes from the Adna Ward with two homes destroyed. President Hansen said even the homes with minor damage will have to have some restoration. Other hard-hit areas were in the Elma Washington and the Forest Grove Oregon stakes. (Please see Dec. 8 2007 Church News.)
In the aftermath President Hansen said the Centralia stake center in Chehalis the Centralia meetinghouse and Rochester meetinghouse were used as refugee shelters. All three are closed now as refugees from the storms have either returned home or found other lodgings.
The Church was just incredible in their response President Hansen added speaking of truckloads of food blankets and other relief supplies including 10000-12000 clean-up kits arriving in Washington during the first week. He emphasized that among the most sought-after items delivered for homeowners and relief workers were mops. You couldnt find a mop in this town.
In addition President Hansen said other stakes from eastern Washington including the Renton Washington Stake wanting to help sent some 30000 gift cards from such retail stores as Home Depot Sears and Wal-Mart. Those cards President Hansen said were essential to those flood victims who lost everything.
With the flood waters receded homeowners are now waiting for their homes to dry out and repairs assessed. And even there Church members are reaching out. Terry Wood Centralia stake high councilor in charge of public affairs and emergency preparation said during the week of Dec. 10 some 50 priesthood holders have — with the authorization of the Lewis county sheriffs department — been canvassing door-to-door in pairs to assess damages to homes in preparation for weekend relief work.
We did this same thing last year when the county was already six weeks into a flooding situation up in Packwood and Randle Brother Wood said. We worked out a deal (with the sheriffs department) with us as first responders.
The workers he added are knocking on some 500 homes a day and have already assessed some 1000 homes with significant damage as of Dec. 11.
There are dramatic and heartwarming accounts in relation to this 2007 flooding Brother Wood related. One woman who works for a local retailer that has worked closely with the Church during the disaster wears two hearing aids. Her husband was away when her home was hit by the flooding. The people were knocking on her doors. She couldnt hear because her hearing aids were out. In the middle of the night her dog bounced on her bed and began licking her face.
The woman reached out her hand which landed in some two feet of water. She was able because of the dogs awareness to get to safety. One day at the stake center Brother Wood looked out the doors to see a woman staring at the sign announcing help to anyone who needed it. She then walked away. Brother Wood approached her and offered help. She burst into tears because her home had been tagged as uninhabitable until county-approved repairs. Brother Wood assured her the Church would help make those repairs so she could return to her home.
Relief work continues in the area but President Hansen expressed with emotion his gratitude for the help of the nearly 3000 volunteers as well as those sending gift cards. With that service members in the area were helped by Friday Dec. 7. By Saturday Dec. 8 95 percent of the help was going to friends and neighbors of the Church.
In the Forest Grove Oregon Stake the hardest-hit area was the Vernonia Branch an hour from the Oregon coast. Branch President W. Marc Farmer reported that the coast was hit by 130-mph winds when the storm hit on Dec. 3. Some 27 homes in his branch were damaged with some 12 most likely lost.
We literally rescued some (people) by boat President Farmer said. These people included the boat rescue of the branch Relief Society president and her family.
In addition President Farmer who is general manager of West Oregon Electric Cooperative had to evacuate his employees on Monday Dec. 3. Sending some by boat he then had a truck backed into the truck bay and loaded it with operations staff for evacuation.
He reported no injuries in his branch and is using the Primary room at the meetinghouse as command central for distribution of food and supplies delivered from the bishops storehouse. On Saturday Dec. 8 some 500 volunteers from surrounding stakes spread throughout the area helping and assessing damage for memberrs and neighbors.
Weve sent an army of people out.
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