Help by the bucketful when flooding strikes

Water is the stuff of life. But water can also be a threat even in the U.S., where substantial flooding is projected in many areas this spring. CWS is preparing for such tough times, and CWS Emergency Clean-up Buckets enormously helpful during flood recovery efforts are high on the priority list.

Best Gift - emergency clean-up buckets
Assembling CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets is a way to help before disaster strikes.
Photo: Rolanda Hughes/CWS

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

Sure, water is the stuff of life.

But water can also be a threat, a fact many in the United States may soon be facing given that a hard and snowy winter for much of the U.S. is expected to lead to a wet and difficult spring flooding season.

"In March and April, as temperatures rise and the snow melts, frozen ground and saturated soil will enhance runoff, causing streams and rivers to swell," a National Weather Service report stated recently.  "The timing and the rate of snow melt and any rain that falls during snow melt contribute to the magnitude and extent of flooding."

In other words, Church World Service is preparing for tough times.

High on the list of priorities for the agency is assembling CWS Emergency Clean-up Buckets, which are enormously helpful during flood recovery efforts.

"Projections are that this spring the U.S. may experience substantial flooding in many areas of the country.  In order to be adequately prepared for relief needs that may arise if this is the case, CWS urgently needs to increase our inventory of disaster clean-up buckets so they can be quickly provided as requested," said Donna J. Derr, who oversees CWS's humanitarian programs, including domestic disaster response.

(Want to assemble a bucket?  Here's how!)

Emergency Clean-up Bucket

CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets help begin the process of recovering from a disaster.
Photo: CWS

As of March 1, there were only 634 buckets at the CWS warehouse in New Windsor, Md., far fewer than what is expected to be needed this spring.  The 5-gallon buckets have re-sealable lids and include sponges, towels, detergent, household cleaner and other items needed for cleaning.

The Emergency Clean-Up Buckets are bigger than the other CWS Kits congregations and other groups assemble for CWS humanitarian efforts, but they are no less important than CWS Health, School and Baby Care Kits, said Derr.

And while they are more expensive to assemble and ship than kits intended for an individual, "when I've seen them put to use I'm reminded that one bucket supplies the needs for an entire family – not just one person," notes CWS board member Lisa Rothenberger of the American Baptist Churches.  "So the investment in the buckets benefits multiple people and can make an entire household habitable again."

It is too soon to say where the CWS buckets and kits might be used, or where the flooding will take place.  But forecasters are expecting problems in the Upper and Central Midwest, from Minnesota south to Missouri.  "No matter where flooding occurs, our hope is we can have CWS Emergency Clean-Up Buckets ready to go," said Barry Shade, CWS's new Associate Director for Domestic Disaster Response.

One area of concern for CWS is North Dakota, particularly Devils Lake, a community of about 7,000 in the northeast part of the state, and the site of floods for some 20 years because of rains affecting a lake there that has no natural outlet.  CWS has a history of responding to the floods there, noted CWS Emergency Response Specialist  Bryan Crousore.

Among strategies being considered by CWS overall are pre-positioining items like buckets and kits, and also providing recovery training to help community leaders in affected communities.

Crousore, who lives in Iowa, said the situation in his state exemplifies the problem: there is a lot of snow on the ground that is not melting.  The sudden onset of melting snow, combined with spring rains, could trigger large-scale flooding.  "The snow here isn't moving," he said.

In an ideal world, he said, in the coming weeks Iowa and the other Midwestern states will get warm days (to begin the process of melting), but cold nights (to ease the rate of snow melt).

If not, he said, expect the floods.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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