Recovery after disaster at Mercy Unlimited

Staff Writer
In March 2011, the Auglaize River flooded Mercy Unlimited during what Executive Director Tammy Brown described as “the perfect storm.”
She says the rain on top of several inches snow provided the perfect conditions for flooding.
“Only when the river gets a little higher than normal do I get a little nervous,” Brown said. “I have to remember that was unique situation and I shouldn’t be worried about it.”
“We had only been in the building for a year,” Brown said. “Everything was new, and then we had the 12 inches of water.”
Mercy Unlimited had their ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 14, 2010.
Brown said the building’s drywall 2 feet high in the basement was completely destroyed.
“At the time, it was devastating for all of us,” Brown said.
While the flooding damaged the building, Brown said the community helped Mercy Unlimited bounce back. She explained nothing besides the building itself was damaged due to outside help.
“We put a call out for the community to help,” Brown said. “The wrestling team came, the football team came — those fellows and gals put everything that was on the floor at least 2 feet in the air.”
Members from the Wapakoneta Fire Department came to pump the water out. Since there was the extreme amount of pressure wanting to get in the building from the outside water, Brown indicated it was difficult to keep the flooding at 12 inches.
She said they had to pump water out of the windows.
“When we got flooded it came very quickly,” Brown said.
Brown said the “news around town” is that the river floods about every 90 years.
However, she said in a short amount of time they have had two floods.
“My board decided we were going to be prepared whether it happens now or in 90 years,” Brown said. “They thought it was a smart idea to do whatever was reasonable to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Mercy Unlimited has taken multiple flood prevention measures since the flood. Brown said they replaced the drywall with dry sheet rock, so that if there is a flood they will not need to replace it.
She said they put insulation between studs and covered it with plastic waterproof material.
“If we get another flood, it is still OK because we can unscrew these panels, take the insulation out, throw it away and screw it back on,” Brown said.
Brown said under a manhole cover there is a space the size of 50 gallon barrel.
“We had a company come in and dig a well pit,” Brown said. “If the water starts coming in, it goes in this 50 gallon barrel.”
She said they also have Visqueen, a plastic sheeting material, that they will wrap around the building and sandbag around the perimeter to keep the flood waters out.
“We’ve learned from it,” Brown said about the flood. “We’re ready if it happens again.”
Brown said she was particularly grateful to Terry Tangeman, who is part of the disaster team for the United Church of Christ, for bringing his disaster response trailer to Mercy Unlimited during the flooding. She said he had water pumps and dehumidifiers.
“He has everything he needs to get dispatched to an area for a disaster,” Brown said.
She said if there is any kind of local disaster, Tangeman will be there asking “how can I help?”
Tangeman said it is important for the community to be prepared for a disaster because whenever there is a disaster, most people do not know where to start.
“Your house gets flooded, and you don’t know where to go from there,” Tangeman said. “We go out and help get them started.”
Tangeman said he has had a lot of experience in cleaning up after a disaster, particularly floods.
His equipment includes generators, semi trash pumps to pump water out of basements and houses, commercial size dehumidifiers to get moisture out and power washers to clean up debris. He said he also has the appropriate safety equipment, such as gloves and respirators.
The United Church of Christ provides disaster relief by delivering personal care and cleaning kits to people who are in shelters.
“That’s what our church believes,” Brown said. “We need to work in the community.”
Tangeman said the people he helps are appreciative.
“They can’t believe we do this for nothing,” Tangeman said. “We never charge anybody.”