Torrential Rains and Flooding
Betty Mason Arthurs
Today in America our hearts, our eyes and our ears are tuned to the reports coming out of Texas and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. In Houston, over 32,000 people have been rescued from torrential rains and flooding. Last night TV news showed the reunion of a mother rescued by boat with her older daughters. With joyful shouts they called to one another across the water until they were safe in one another’s arms. The mother cried and told the reporter, “God is good. God is so good.” There were many photos but one of a small girl, in a shelter, with her arms around her towel-wrapped puppy brought tears to my eyes.
Once upon a time there was the great flood of 1951 in the Great Plains of Kansas.
A young family lived in the small town of Manhattan. Their lives revolved around family, school and church gatherings. To the five-year-old girl, Elizabeth, life in the summer meant endless days of barefoot fun in her sandbox, climbing trees and hours swinging in her tire swing. Often her friend Joanne walked over for a visit and they played with paper dolls and coloring books.
One day in June it started to rain. It rained for a month which was unheard of in the Great Plains. By July, the rivers crested and soon townspeople frantically tried to prepare for flooding. The girl’s parents and her two older brothers, Mark, age nine, and Don, age 13, carried furniture and boxes of belongings up to the second floor of their small, two bed room house just off the main thoroughfare. The sanctuary of the church next door, where their father was pastor, was on second floor so the pews and the organ would be safe, but they moved Bibles and Sunday school materials up from the basement. On July 12th , her father drove their car to higher ground just in case it did flood.
The girl’s father, Pastor Willard and her mother, Lois, had decided they would stay at the house. They honestly didn’t think there would be any flooding close to their home. Elizabeth remembers clutching her beloved doll and watching from the front porch through the torrential rain as the water rushed down the street and up to their house. A black dog frantically seeking shelter swam up to the porch and her brothers pulled him to safety. The family’s dog, Bing Crosby, fought to protect his territory from this stranger so the animals were tied up on opposite ends of the porch.
With flood waters rising, it was time to evacuate along with their neighbors. A kind man in a yellow rain poncho piloting a boat docked next to the porch and the rain-drenched family, clutching a suitcase with a few belongings, gratefully climbed in. Mark held Bing and Don grabbed the black mutt. Years later Elizabeth still remembered the stinky dogs. Sheltered in her mother’s arms under a tarp, she listened to her mother’s softly spoken prayers for safety. They reached dry ground and the strange dog ran off. For three weeks they stayed with a compassionate church family, the Nelson’s, who lived close to Kansas State University, while the flood waters receded.
To Elizabeth, the flood of 1951 was an exciting adventure and the only bad memory was the immunizations required for all the community. To her parents and brothers, the cleanup was a monstrous task with flood waters filling up the house and church basements and reaching three feet in the house. Neighbors helped neighbors rebuild their community.
You can do a Google search “The Great Flood of 1951 in Manhattan, Kansas” on July 13 and see the town’s devastation. The cities of Topeka and Kansas City, along with Fort Riley, and many other communities also survived horrific damage due to flooding.
Yes, I was five-year-old Elizabeth in this story and I have never forgotten my big adventure and being safely evacuated by boat. My heart goes out to the people of Texas and I pray for their protection and peace as they rebuild their lives.
I find comfort in the words of Scripture in verse 6 of Deuteronomy 31:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”
Do you have memories of being rescued in the midst of disaster? Have you lost your home? How long did it take you to rebuild? Please share in the comments below.