BYU-Idaho students, Rexburg residents embrace opportunities to serve following flood

Published: Thursday, July 17 2014 9:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, July 17 2014 3:35 p.m. MDT

Several student apartments at Brigham Young University-Idaho were flooded during a storm Tuesday.

Zachary Lee

REXBURG, Idaho — A severe rainstorm caused flooding in Madison County Tuesday, leaving parts of Rexburg under several inches of water.

The Brigham Young University-Idaho campus was closed at 6 p.m., except for the BYU-Idaho Center, which was used as an emergency shelter for students and community members whose homes were flooded.

According to Marc Stevens, the media relations and campus communication manager for the university, BYU-Idaho officials were prepared for the situation.

Stevens said the housing office on campus and the local leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contributed to the smooth resolution of apartment flooding.

“The housing office got in touch with housing managers, and they began to work with those complexes to make other arrangements for students,” Stevens said. “And bishops went door-to-door checking on every member of their wards. The natural structure of the church really sets us up well to deal with things like this.”

According to Stevens, two-thirds of the buildings on campus were affected, but three took the majority of the hit: the Hyrum Manwaring Center, the Oscar A. Kirkham Building and the Joseph Fielding Smith Building.

Those buildings will house dehumidifier machines for the next few days to extricate water.

After contracting crews and emergency staff members worked through the night to remove standing water, campus was able to open Wednesday morning, apart from the Smith Building.

The testing center, which is located in the Manwaring Center, is also open, just in time for finals week.

Stevens said there are no structural failures, but there are possible electrical issues and carpet damage.

There were also several apartment complexes affected by the storm, and Stevens said students whose apartments are uninhabitable would be taken care of.

When BYU-Idaho students saw the storm taking effect, they responded by serving, Stevens said.

“The students serving is by far the key take-away of this experience,” he said. “Buildings can be repaired and dried out, but the important thing is people and how they’ve been affected. Our students got that. We’re seeing videos of students literally rolling up their sleeves, jumping in and getting each other out. We couldn’t be prouder.”

Zachary Lee, a senior at BYU-Idaho, participated in some of the service.

Lee was doing homework when he saw the storm rolling in and didn’t think much of it until he walked outside and saw flooding 10 feet outside his apartment.

After the storm ended, he decided to walk around and see where he could help.

At first, he helped people navigate the flooded streets, and then he stopped at an apartment complex where more than 100 students were bailing out water.

“We helped for about an hour and a half, and I was really inspired,” Lee said. “Everyone started singing (LDS) Church hymns and we were happy to do it.”

Lee said he’s continued to ask people what he can do to help.

“It’s amazing how many people want to help. There have been too many volunteers some places, which is a great problem to have,” Lee said. “Disasters never happen at convenient times, but people lived 'the spirit of Ricks' to a tee yesterday, making sure to serve their fellow brothers and sisters."

Lee Warnick, a BYU-Idaho communication professor and weather enthusiast, said it was the biggest storm Rexburg has seen in 31 years.

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