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As Hurricane Matthew looms, Baptist units on standby

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — Florida Baptist disaster relief volunteers are on standby for the potential impact of Hurricane Matthew along Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Baptist DR leaders in Georgia and South Carolina, meanwhile, also are monitoring the hurricane’s path and will post updates of volunteer needs at their respective websites and Facebook pages.

Forecasters expect the Category 3 hurricane to strengthen as it moves northward from the Bahamas with potential landfall from North Miami to Jacksonville on Thursday night. It will be the first major storm to make a direct hit in Florida in more than a decade since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Florida.

Two Florida Baptist mass feeding units are being staged at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center near Leesburg for rapid response. Trained mass feeding volunteers are expected to be called out on Thursday. Florida Baptist DR officials have asked state conventions partners west of Pensacola to be on standby, including Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

Delton Beall, Florida Baptist DR director, said the convention’s Emergency Operations Center estimates the need of more than 300,000 meals daily in the event of a direct hit.

South Carolina Baptists’ DR website noted that Matthew is looming at the one-year anniversary of catastrophic rainfall and flood damage last October.

“[O]ur state is preparing for significant impact from Hurricane Matthew,” the South Carolina DR site notes. “State agencies are arranging with disaster response partners about shelters and feeding related to the evacuations ordered by the governor. SC Baptist Disaster Relief (SCB DR) will be called upon to provide feeding operations for shelters as the initial phase of our response to the disaster.

“After the storm, we anticipate the need for virtually all other types of units. Therefore, all SCB DR volunteers are being placed on alert status for a response to this disaster. Alert status means your unit will be needed, so make efforts to clear your schedule, contact your unit leader about your availability, and be ready to deploy.”

Meanwhile, Florida Baptists are continuing to initiate contact with mission partners in western Haiti and eastern Cuba after Hurricane Matthew tore through the nations on Tuesday (Oct. 4). Reports indicate western Haiti was devastated by flooding.

A team of Florida Baptists is expected to arrive the week of Oct. 10 in Santiago, Cuba, to repair roofs of churches and other damage.

Florida Baptists had pre-stationed food, water and other resources in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew. Long-term needs assessments will take place in the coming days.