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Abbey working to recover, thousands of bees drown in flood

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Crews spent the day at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College working to restore at least 14 buildings damaged by floodwater over the weekend. 

Abbot Justin Brown said water from the Bogue Falaya began to rise quickly Friday afternoon. 

"It was just too fast for us to really do everything we needed to do," Brown said. 

He said the flood got as high as 2 feet in some buildings, including the Abbey's woodworking shop where monks produced hand-crafted wooden caskets. 

The last time floodwater reached a building on the campus was during the floods of 1927, so the Abbey didn't have flood insurance on its buildings. 

"We thought we were on pretty high ground here and didn't have a real recent history of any kind of flooding here," Brown said. 

Crews worked quickly to create a temporary dehumidifier in the Abbey's cathedral after flooding knocked out the climate control system in the church. 

"We are in need of pumping in air to control the humidity, because we have an extremely valuable organ and historic paintings on the wall, murals," Brown said. 

Across campus, relief workers stacked thousands of books, many covered by water over the weekend. In the woodworking shop, electricians spent the afternoon trying to salvage the equipment used to build caskets and urns, putting the Abbey's most iconic export on hold. 

The Abbey was also known for its raw honey production, but floodwaters annihilated many colonies on campus, drowning at least 200,000 bees. 

"This is really a bummer this. I lost 15 hives and only one queen that I found," said Justin Horchoff, the Abbey's beekeeper. 

Horchoff planned on splitting the hives this weekend as he tried to ramp up yearly honey production from 70 gallons to 140 gallons. 

"We won't be doing that here and I was all set to do it. To me, this is really exciting," Horchoff said. 

But Horchoff isn't worried about the hives. With a few bees remaining and a viable queen, he expects to get back to the production level the Abbey was at before the flood within the next two years. 

"This, compared to everything else, this is nothing, and we'll come back from this," Horchoff said. 

The Abbey plans on reoping the Seminary College next week.  

If you'd like to help with the Abbey's recover efforts click here

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