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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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September 18, 2013

ELCA assessing needs in flood-affected parts of Colorado, New Mexico

Following a record-breaking rainfall September 2013 that produced flooding in 15 Colorado counties, the ELCA and its partner affiliates are working to assess the immediate and long-term needs of people and communities affected.

According to reports, at least 6 people have died and more than 700 hundred people are unaccounted for primarily in Boulder and Larimer counties.

In a report from James Horan of Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains -- an affiliate of Lutheran Disaster Response, the disaster response ministry of the ELCA -- nearly 12,000 residents have evacuated with "many evacuation orders still standing or new orders issued or reissued," he said.

The flood affected a 4,500 square mile area. While a "major disaster declaration was made for Adams, Boulder, Larimer (Fort Collins) and Weld (Greeley) counties," said Horan, "eleven additional countries are significally affected." He said Colorado state officials have requested that the federal declaration be expanded to include these additional counties.

As immediate and long-term needs continue to be assessed, Lutheran Disaster Response and its partners will work to provide assistance to flood-affected communities.

The property of Atonement Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Boulder, Colo., sustained extensive damage to the sanctuary, which will require the removal of pews, flooring and parts of the ceiling.

Even in the midst of their own situation, members are showing the community that "the church is there for them," said Chad Kohlmeyer, pastor of Atonement. He said nearly 40 members of Atonement have been working with residents to help with water mitigation.

"I am so amazed and impressed by the members of all ages who have rallied around our community. The spirit and attitude in our church has been so uplifting," said Kohlmeyer.

"Beyond the sheer destruction caused by the floodwaters, several wastewater systems and treatment plants were compromised leading to serious concerns about contamination, not only for residents, but also agricultural land that was inundated," reported Horan. He said it is estimated that 60,000 cattle are stranded.

Horan also reported that some major state highway bridges are completely destroyed, which may produce lengthy detours for motorists and will cause significant economic disruptions.

In New Mexico, the flooding has impacted most of the state, but no deaths have been reported and fewer than 100 homes have been damaged.

Daniel Rift, director of the ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal, has invited prayers for the people of Colorado and other areas impacted by the storms. Financial gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response will be used (100 percent) to help disaster survivors clean-up, rebuild and recover, he said.

Congregations and individuals can give to Lutheran Disaster Response, which provides assistance to survivors of natural disasters and humanitarian crises throughout the world. This support is carried out, both domestically and internationally, in coordination with local affiliates -- social ministry organizations, agencies, partners and international companion churches -- located in the disaster-affected communities. 

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