Brethren Disaster Ministries begins Hurricane Florence response




Hurricane Florence
Photo by NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

Hurricane Florence makes landfall on September 14, 2018.

Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) and its associated programs have had an especially busy few weeks and they have monitored Hurricane Florence’s advance toward the United States and begun response efforts following the hurricane’s landfall on the North Carolina coast on Thursday, Sept. 13.

BDM has already had a long-term presence in the Carolinas, with teams working at rebuilding projects since fall 2016 in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Work began in the area of Columbia, S.C., and later moved to MarionCounty before expanding earlier this year to sites in both North and South Carolina, sending more than 30 volunteers and leaders each week. The current work housing site has been in Lumberton, N.C.

Volunteers from Atlantic Northeast, South/Central Indiana, and Virlina districts scheduled for the week of Sept. 9-15 still traveled to the area and did what rebuilding they could ahead of the storm, including a completely new roof on the Wednesday morning before the storm hit, replacing one that had been damaged in 2016. The volunteers then traveled home that day ahead of Florence’s landfall.

Project leaders Steve Keim, Kim Gingerich, Henry Elsea, and Rob and Barb Siney stayed behind in Lumberton, however, to prepare for Florence, as the host church—located in the northern part of the city—had avoided flooding in 2016. They filled water coolers, set up a generator, moved vehicles and trailers to safer spots, and strapped down several trailers.

The Lumberton site experienced several power outages during Florence, but power had returned Sunday night, according to the team. There were also several roof leaks, but the site remained safe even as the lower-lying southern part of the city flooded. The affected area included a warehouse that BDM shares with United Methodist partners to store construction materials. Volunteers had worked earlier in the week to move items to higher shelves.

Volunteers were also keeping an eye on Nichols, S.C., where a large amount of clean-up and rebuilding work has taken place in the past year. Only about half the affected residents had returned prior to Florence, with some of them just recently having their homes completed. The water began entering Nichols on Sept. 18 and eventually flooded all the homes that BDM had worked on plus some that had not flooded in 2016.

As of yesterday, reports said that rivers in both North and South Carolina might not crest until the middle of next week. BDM said it would “continue to wait out the storm and flooding and have volunteers return as soon as possible,” according to a release. North Carolina state officials had been asking this past week that no one travel in or to the state due to numerous road closures and ongoing rescue operations. “When the flood waters recede,” BDM said, “volunteers will work with our local partners to identify how best to help at attempt to contact past clients who might have been re-affected.”

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Meanwhile, BDM’s Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) also began monitoring the hurricane’s approach about a week before landfall and, at the request of the National Red Cross, began creating multiple standby teams to respond once needs were assessed. The initial child care teams were activated for deployment on Sept. 15: one team to South Carolina and three to North Carolina, arriving on Sept. 17.

As of the most recent report, 17 CDS volunteers were on the ground in the two states providing care for children in shelters. The South Carolina team was first assigned to a shelter in Dillon, but they were not able to travel safely to the area due to increased flooding. The team was instead reassigned to North Carolina and is now working at the Pender High School shelter in a rural area in the southern part of the state.

“While frustrating, this shows how quickly response work changes soon after the disaster, especially when flooding is continuing,” a CDS release said.

The North Carolina volunteers have been stationed along the coast, at Topsail Beach, where they set up a CDS Center for the children at the shelter there. The school they are using sustained significant water damage and was soon closed as the shelter population moved to other shelters further inland. The volunteers were expected to be working in several new locations by this weekend depending on the size of the shelter population. Additional CDS volunteers are standing by to deploy as needs arise or to provide relief to current teams stationed in the Carolinas.

CDS has created several resources in both English and Spanish. Anyone able to use them with parents or caregivers should feel free to print them out on card stock or place an order by sending an email to cds@brethren.org:

  • CDS From fear to hope: Helping children cope with war, terrorism, and other acts of violence
  • CDS Trauma and your children: For parents or guardians after disasters or traumatic events

Children’s Disaster Services tiene los siguientes recursos en inglés y español. Si puede usarlos con los padres o cuidadores, no dude en imprimirlos en cartulinas o hacer un pedido para ellos, enviando un correo electrónico a cds@brethren.org:

  • CDS Del miedo a la esperanza: Ayudar a los niños a lidiar con la guerra, el terrorismo y otros actos de violencia
  • CDS El trauma y sus hijos: Para padres o cuidadores después de desastres or eventos traumáticos.

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