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As Fla. braces for 2nd hurricane in weeks, Southern Baptist relief teams move to Ga.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–All out-of-state Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units and teams stationed throughout southwest Florida were being evacuated Sept. 1 as the state was bracing for its second hurricane in less than three weeks.

Florida emergency officials were predicting that Hurricane Frances, heading for the Bahamas Sept. 1 with maximum sustained winds near 140 mph, could make landfall early Saturday in southeastern or central Florida.

Mickey Caison, manager of the North American Mission Board’s Disaster Operations Center near Atlanta, said most out-of-state Southern Baptist volunteers would be relocating to a temporary post in Perry, Ga., while some returned to their home states.

Caison said volunteers will be housed at First Baptist Church in Perry and equipment such as mobile kitchens and shower units will be stored at the neighboring agricultural center fairgrounds.

“Most of them cooked lunch this morning and are packing and pulling out,” Caison said.

The evacuation, Caison said, was initiated early instead of later to help disaster relief units avoid traffic delays usually associated with widespread evacuations.

As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, officials with the Florida Division of Emergency Management issued a call for voluntary evacuations for the state’s east coast.

More than 3,600 Southern Baptist volunteers from 24 states have helped prepare nearly 1 million meals and completed more than 3,400 cleanup and recovery projects since Hurricane Charley pummeled southwest Florida on Aug. 13.

After Charley slammed into southwestern Florida’s Charlotte County with 145 mph winds, it cut a northeasterly path of destruction across the state from Fort Myers to South Daytona Beach.

As of Aug. 31, nearly 100 units or teams were providing onsite relief and assistance by manning mobile kitchens and chainsaw crews, providing shower units, laundry services and childcare. Southern Baptists are the third-largest disaster relief agency in the country behind the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, with more than 28,000 trained volunteers on call for local, state and national emergencies.

Florida Baptist Convention officials said that for now local volunteers will continue manning mobile kitchen units at South Biscayne Baptist Church in Northport, Fla., and McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief coordinators estimate as many as 4,000 recovery jobs remain in the wake of Hurricane Charley. And officials with the Florida Baptist Convention have now tallied more than 40 Southern Baptist churches damaged by the storm, including four that were destroyed.

Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.
For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.

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  • Lee Weeks