Houghton, Michigan residents show resilience in recent flooding


Presbyterian Disaster Assistance provides grant support

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Six inches of rain fell in Houghton, causing major damage to streets and roads. (Photo by Suzanne Baroody)

LOUISVILLE — Residents of Houghton, Michigan are still cleaning up from the impact of heavy rains and floods over a week ago. The National Weather Service reports more than six inches of rain fell June 16-17, sending rivers and streams over their banks and causing significant damage to several main roads in and out of town.

“Most of our roads were damaged at some level. I live about 10 miles out of town and there were three or four major washouts where asphalt and soil beneath the road completely gave way,” said the Rev. Peter Norland, pastor of the Portage Lake United Presbyterian Church. “There were some small landslides sending rocks all over the road. The landslide resulted in the death of a 12-year-old boy.”

Norland says a few church members were displaced by the flooding.

“Other people saw flooding in their basements,” he said. “One of our members lives in an old Victorian style home and people not only came in and ripped up the soggy carpeting, but carefully removed the handcrafted woodwork in hopes of salvaging it. There was no damage to the church.”

State officials estimate the road damage alone in the Upper Peninsula is expected to exceed $28.7 million. The Presbytery of Mackinac reached out to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and received a $7,500 grant to support clean up.

Flood waters destroyed streets and caused landslides in Houghton, Michigan, damaging homes and businesses. (Photo by Suzanne Baroody)

At the request of the presbytery, PDA deployed a team to meet with the leadership of the presbytery, congregation and community. The team worshipped with the congregation of Portage Lake United on Sunday.

“This past week, the [denomination] was gathered in St. Louis, at General Assembly, to discern the way forward for our denomination while the church was gathered with the Portage Lake congregation and community of Houghton, Michigan to discern how best to move forward through the flood.” said Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for disaster response in the U.S. “We will continue to stand with the presbytery through the long-term recovery.”

Norland says that once the water was gone, people rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

“We live a long way from Detroit and immediate help. The people that live in this community deal with a lot of snow each winter so we’re used to helping each other and went right into action helping our neighbors. The response was not surprising,” he said. “That’s the sort of thing we count on our neighbors to do for one another. It was surprising for people who came in to help coordinate recovery.”

Norland says the church is looking to see how it can help in the long-term recovery effort.

“We will look at partnering with other organizations to bring help to the community because no one has flood insurance that I know of and as many as 500 homes were impacted,” he said. “We are going to figure out how to help one another and raise some money to help with recovery.”


Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is able to respond quickly to emergencies because of gifts to One Great Hour of Sharingand designated giving. To support PDA’s response to flooding in the U.S., designate gifts to DR000191.

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