Saturday’s mudslide in Washington State was a tragic way to end a severe winter that affected many parts of North America this year. The 135-foot-wide by 180-foot-deep mudslide created “one square mile of total devastation” in Oso, about an hour outside of Seattle, the state’s governor, Jay Inslee, said yesterday. So far, 24 people are known to have died, more than 170 people are listed as missing, and dozens of homes were washed away in the disaster.
“Make a plan and get to know the people in your city who are part of the emergency management team so that when something happens, you can become a real, on-the-ground help in a disaster.”
-Pastor Rick Ebbers
“State and local emergency managers say that the mudslide in Oso was the result of heavy rainfall earlier this month,” said World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) Director Bill Adams. “It forced evacuations because the mud was blocking the north end of the Stillaguamish River and could have caused additional flooding if the water had backed up.”
Thankfully, officials say that the river is finding natural avenues for drainage through the mud this week in Washington, but there are many locations in the US and Canada this spring where water levels are rising. There are currently six flood advisories along the Grand and other rivers in West Michigan that have reached the “full” stage. World Renew DRS staff and volunteers hope that cool, sunny weather will warm and melt the snowpack and ice at a measured rate to avoid flooding and other disasters in the coming weeks.
Beth Thomas, Emergency Manager for Ottawa County, Michigan, says, “Cold weather with sunshine is perfect for the spring thaw because the warmth of the sun eats away at the snow pack slowly, giving the water a chance to be absorbed into the ground. We can have potential problems if we get heavy rains on top of a quick thaw, or if an ice dam blocks the Grand or another river from draining into Lake Michigan.”
Last year, World Renew DRS responded to spring flooding in Longmont, Colorado, and Alberta, Canada, as well as tornadoes in Oklahoma and other locations. To help families, businesses, schools, and churches prepare for the possibility of a disaster like a flood, World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) has developed and compiled resources to reduce risks and prevent damage.
Rev. Rick Ebbers of Longmont, Colorado, says, “Take time to figure out how your church can be utilized if it is needed for shelter and what can you do to get to know the people in your city. That way, you can become a real, on-the-ground help while you’re in the middle of an emergency context. Because The Journey Church had some plans in place, we were able to minister to people right away as well as contribute to the long-term recovery of our community."
Four Steps to Prepare for a Disaster
- Visit Preparing for Disasters at worldrenew.net/drs to find out how to identify your risks, reduce damage, and develop a plan for your home, church, school, or business in the event of a disaster. There are links to many additional, helpful resources there as well.
- In your congregation, watch the webinar "Disasters Happen - Is Your Church Prepared?" and begin to create a disaster plan for your church.
- Research your city’s emergency management plan and resources on their website or offices. These are available in the U.S. and Canada. For example, Ottawa County, Michigan, lists local businesses that sell sandbagging materials. Churches, schools, and business owners should also identify and get to know their local emergency manager.
- Should an emergency occur, monitor your local news stations and follow them on social media for weather updates, and put your plan into action as needed.
Image: via www.ready.gov/floods
Plan ahead before disaster happens! Visit Preparing for Disasters to find out how to identify and reduce your risks, and then develop a disaster plan for your home, school, church, or business.