“Floods Bring Tide of Service in Washington,” Ensign, Apr. 1990, 75
Record rainfall in western Washington led to flooding January 9 and 10 that took the lives of three people—including the husband of a Church member—and forced 3,500 people out of their homes.
The resulting $1.2 million in damages prompted United States President George Bush to declare Lewis County, Washington, a major disaster area.
Orville Decker, husband of Jean Decker of the Centralia Washington Stake’s Winlock Ward, drowned in the flood. The Deckers drove into five to eight feet of water on a section of the I-5 freeway. Sister Decker escaped from the car, but her husband was trapped inside.
A number of Church members in Centralia and Chehalis were among those evacuated from homes, many of which suffered water damage. The Centralia Washington Stake center escaped damage, though it was isolated by the flooding Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers.
About a dozen members’ homes in the Puyallup Washington Stake were also affected by flooding. Most members were able to return to their homes within one day as the waters rapidly receded. Cleanup efforts were completed within a few days; repairs are ongoing.
For many Church members, the disaster provided an occasion for service. Priesthood quorums and Relief Society sisters, along with home and visiting teachers, went to work immediately, checking on the status of individual Church members and their families. Some members had to drive through floodwaters or take long detours around them; communication was difficult because telephones were out for a time. Many members were taken in temporarily by those who had not been affected by the flood; others donated many hours of service to help clean up flood-damaged homes and property. Such service helped renew contacts with the Church for a number of less-active members.