Flooding Exacts Emotional Toll in Colorado
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
The skies have cleared and the floodwaters have largely receded in rain-weary Colorado. Still, the impact of the recent historic storms continues to be felt.
Even as life returns to normal in most Colorado communities, thousands of individuals and families—including many Latter-day Saints—continue to deal with the long-term implications of the disaster. Thousands of homes have been lost or seriously damaged, and many affected residents are struggling to emotionally cope with the overwhelming task of recovery.
“There are still a lot of people wondering how they are going to [deal] with this,” said President Michael G. Williams of the Boulder Colorado Stake.
Members and missionaries from all corners of the Centennial State continue to help. Latter-day Saints have provided more than 21,000 hours of service to disaster victims, offering assistance wherever and however it’s needed.
The homes of LDS families were numbered among the 6,000 houses that were destroyed in the deluge. Another 15,000 homes suffered significant damage. Displaced members have found shelter under the roofs of relatives, friends, and fellow members.
Meanwhile, Church Humanitarian Services shipped 90,0000 pounds of food, water, hygiene kits, and other emergency supplies to Colorado. The American Red Cross, a frequent partner with the Church in the aftermath of disasters, is utilizing a meetinghouse in the city of Aurora as a shelter.
Locally, members have collected food, water, baby supplies, and other provisions for those in need.
President Williams said he has been inspired by the volunteer spirit displayed by the Colorado members. They make for a flexible corps of workers, offering assistance in a variety of ways. Many labor shoulder-to-shoulder alongside civil emergency response workers at disaster assistance centers. Others answer calls for assistance in damaged basements. Members have also been enlisted to remove wet hay from barns, clean up debris outside homes, knock down ruined walls, and pull up waterlogged carpet. Regardless of their assignments, the LDS volunteers are easy to spot in their familiar bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests.
President Williams said the harm caused by the Colorado disaster extends beyond destroyed homes and damaged property. The flooding has also exacted an emotional toll on many families and individuals, including Church members. Local priesthood leaders are working with LDS Family Services to provide counseling and emotional support to people of all backgrounds whose lives have been forever changed over the past two weeks.