MADISON, S.D. (KELO) — The storms that brought tornadoes to Sioux Falls one year ago also left some neighborhoods underwater farther north. Flooding lead to a massive cleanup at a church in Madison, South Dakota that ran a clothing ministry from the basement. One year later, church members are reflecting on a natural disaster that brought their community together.
This neighborhood around St. John Lutheran Church was one of the hardest hit areas. Even a light drizzle like today’s can trigger flashbacks of the flash flooding from one year ago.
“I remember 2:30 in the morning, the water alarms went off and I got up and came down and there wasn’t a drop of water in the basement, and at 5:30 in the morning, we had 3-foot of water, that’s how quickly it came through,” church president Scott Parsley said.
The congregation quickly mobilized to remove standing water from the basement.
“A gentleman helped us to pump out, he had a big pump, and I think he said he figured we took out 360-thousand gallons, so, big job,” church member Ed Hansen said.
Then came repairs. New walls and flooring. And a fresh coat of paint, but only for half the basement, in case of more flooding.
“We were scared of what might happen this year if it happen again this year, then we’d have half of it to fix and the other half just to paint,” Hansen said.
Flooding ruined all the donated items available to families in-need inside the church’s Community Clothing Rooms.
“I, myself, thought we’re done. We can’t possibly reopen. Everybody said we have to reopen. People are depending on it. So we struggled through it,” church member Karleen Froke said.
The community came through with donations that restocked shelves and the church was able to reopen the clothing rooms, until COVID-19 shut them down again. The clothing racks are set higher after last year’s flooding.
“So that in case we would get water, that things would be off the floor,” Froke said.
The church has also added four new sump pumps, water-tight windows and a generator outside: vital hardware to protect the building and preserve the congregation’s mission of service.
“Despite the tragedy, you really do learn how much people will help each other and we certainly experienced that day,” church member Val Parsley said.
Church members credit the help of student-athletes from Dakota State University for helping clean out the basement following the flooding.
FEMA grants helped cover the cost of repairs to the church which runs between $150-$175,000.
The church members plan to finish painting the entire basement over the winter.