By Stan Friedman
SLOAN, IA (June 27, 2011) – Richard Moore, pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church here, is driving through the small nearby community of Moville and observing wreckage left by the latest natural disaster to strike the region in recent months.
“There’s another house that’s been destroyed . . . this one has a tree and wires on the roof . . . there is a monstrous burn pile on the side of the road . . . this is just unbelievable . . . this is nuts . . . it’s amazing no one was killed even though homes were destroyed.”
Some of the residents here don’t believe the National Weather Service’s conclusion that the damage one week ago today was due to high winds and not a tornado – they had heard the roar. What is known for sure is that there is a trail of destruction.
One person told the Sioux City Journal, “I never go to the basement. But I threw myself down the steps and landed at the bottom. I remember looking up to a column that connects to the ceiling.”
Then he watched the ceiling ripped away and vanish. The next time he saw it, the ceiling had smashed into a garage one block away.
Last Wednesday, Moore was delivering bottled water and coolers for volunteers who again had turned out to help neighbors. It is a process that has been repeated in recent months.
Volunteers from the Sloan church and other residents in the region have spent a lot of time helping pick up the pieces of homes reduced to rubble or trying to keep massive amounts of water from flooding neighbors’ houses.
“This has been quite a few months for us,” Moore says. “I’ve never seen anything like this before, where an area got hit by so many things so close to another.”
The season of disasters began when dozens of grassfires charred the area in late March and early April. On April 9, multiple tornadoes slammed into the area including one that destroyed 142 businesses and homes in Mapleton, Iowa. Near-record flooding is threatening other communities.
Many residents in the towns have close friends and relatives living in the other communities. “They’ve known each other most of their lives,” says Moore. They all play each other in sports, for example.
Three families who attend First Covenant Church in Sioux City have been forced from their homes due to flooding or the threat posed by the rising Missouri river and several tributaries. They already have been told the earliest they’ll be allowed back is September, and possibly later.
One family is storing some of its possessions in the church gymnasium because other displaced residents have rented all of the storage facilities in Sioux City. Some people have had to go all the way to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, about 75 miles away in order to rent storage sheds, says June Peters, administrative assistant at First Covenant.
The emotional effects will be felt in Sloan and surrounding area for a long time, says Moore. “Some people have looks of sheer disbelief on their faces. Some look lost. They’re just overwhelmed by all the events.”
Peters and Moore say the people still are trusting in God, however, to get them through the stressful days ahead. “They know they’ve done all they can do,” says Peters.