Recent flash-flooding in central and northeastern Missouri probably wasn’t of a significant magnitude to trigger a federal disaster declaration.
Nonetheless, Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO) will work with a network of local agencies to get people who were affected the short- and long-term help they need in order to recover.
“We see it as our call to care for and serve and help individuals who are vulnerable,” said Alissa Marlow, director of community services for CCCNMO.
“It’s not enough to stand by and watch,” she stated. “We have to commit ourselves to providing long-term assistance.”
Mrs. Marlow spoke of how CCCNMO’s work is fitting into the larger network of disaster-response efforts.
Catholic Charities specializes in providing long-term disaster case-management and the sharing of important information to help people while they wait for the flood water to recede.
She described long-term disaster case-management as “helping households walk the long road to recovery — understanding how to make a claim for insurance, leveraging other resources, working with other partner agencies to leverage assistance, and helping people figure out how to mitigate their risk in the future.”
She noted that Catholic Charities is the only agency in the area that specializes in this sort of long-term disaster case-management.
Mrs. Marlow pointed out that flooding is a particularly challenging disaster because it often takes days if not weeks for the water to recede.
“Until the waters recede and it is safe to venture out into communities, we are not able to assess damages which is necessary to secure disaster-related resources,” she said.
Now that the water has mostly rolled back and disaster assessments are being submitted, representatives of the various cooperating agencies are communicating regularly and coordinating their response.
“This is a critical step to avoid duplication of efforts and to minimize gaps in services,” she noted.
CCCNMO has been contacting parishes and local emergency-management and other nongovernmental agencies in the affected counties, to provide CCCNMO contact information and ability to offer disaster case-management services.
Mrs. Marlow has also been in touch with Catholic Charities USA as well as the Catholic Charities affiliates in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau about the possibility of inter-diocesan collaboration.
She noted that the persistence of COVID-19 poses obstacles to a coordinated response among agencies, “but that doesn’t mean that we as Catholic Charities aren’t going to reach out.”
“We will wear masks and maintain proper social distance,” she stated. “We will figure out how to provide services in-person in a way that’s safe.”
Giving and seeking help
With the likely lack of a disaster declaration, which would bring additional funding for relief, Catholic Charities will need to rely more on its own contributors.
“Federal money probably won’t be there this time,” she said, “and we know homeowners insurance does not cover floods. So people are left to recover on their own.”
As of July 1, the Central and Northern Chapter of the American Red Cross had reported identifying 99 households in Boone, Cole, Howard and Saline counties that were affected by flooding triggered by heavy rain during the last two weeks of June.
“Those are just the ones we’ve been made aware of,” said Mrs. Marlow. “We know there will be more coming in.”
She encouraged people whose homes have been affected by the flooding to contact their local emergency-management agency or the Red Cross.
“Time is of the essence, in order for us to leverage resources with other agencies and find out what kind of assistance will be available,” she said.
To find a local contact, she suggested visiting the Missouri Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (MOVOAD) website at movoad.org.
MOVOAD helps coordinate all phases of disaster-response, prompting efficient collaboration among agencies while reducing duplication of services.
Could happen to anyone
For anyone whose property has been affected by the flooding, Mrs. Marlow recommended taking photos of the damage and holding onto receipts for anything related to offsetting the disaster.
“Keep any documentation with any insurance, water-restoration and foundation companies, carpet cleaning companies and that sort of thing,” she said.
If there’s water in the basement, keep it cool, pull up any affected carpet and use dehumidifiers, “shop-vacs” and pumps to remove as much water as possible.
“Of course, if it’s high and standing, you want to turn off your electricity,” she said. “In fact, if you have standing water in your basement, you probably need to find other living arrangements. It’s not safe to live there.”
She recommended calling the local emergency-management agency and Red Cross in order to set up a damage assessment, and the company or companies that issued any homeowners’ insurance policies.
“Even if you don’t have flood insurance, there might be an off-chance that we get a declaration and it was caused by straight-line winds or that it came in through your roof and your gutters,” she said.
Noting that nine inches of rain had fallen in 30 hours on parts of Columbia that hadn’t seen flooding in well over a generation, she advised everyone to plan ahead for future flash floods.
“With that kind of rainfall happening in such a short time, it could affect anybody, even if you don’t live in a floodplain,” she said. “So look around. Is your house prepared?”
“Why we’re here”
Mrs. Marlow requested continued donations and prayers as CCCNMO embarks on yet another round of long-term disaster assistance.
She suggested that anyone willing to volunteer to help with post-flood clean-up in their communities contact Catholic Charities for help finding an agency that specializes in early response.
As with past disasters, she recognizes God’s steadying hand at work in the recovery process.
“He’s working through all of us who are here to serve people in need,” she said.
“That’s why we’re here,” she stated. “And that’s where I see God in all of this.”
To help with these efforts, visit cccnmo.diojeffcity.org/give and select “Disaster Fund 2021 - Catholic Charities” from the dropdown menu, or make a check payable to “CCCNMO” and mail to P.O. Box 104626 Jefferson City, MO 65110-4626.