BUFFALO, NY (BP) — A historic snowstorm that dumped over four feet of snow and brought at least 31 area deaths has left residents and churches acting to respond as best they can.
“There’s not much we can do but take care of immediate needs,” said Michael Flannery, missionary for Frontier Baptist Association and state Disaster Relief director.
Two churches received extensive damage through burst pipes.
Pastor Dan Trippie announced in a Facebook post that Restoration Church will meet this Sunday, but at a local hotel after extensive flooding occurred at the 12-year-old church. Several inches of water can be seen in a downstairs children’s area in a video he posted on Christmas Day.
“Brothers and sisters in the Christian community [have] reached out to us in this time,” he said, “as well as those in other faith communities in western New York.”
Ridgewood Bible Church, a seven-year-old congregation, experienced water damage as well, said Flannery, adding that church leaders also discovered graffiti, which police are investigating.
Regional Disaster Relief coordinators are maintaining contact with emergency responders, he said.
“The intensity of the storm was so great that for two days all I could do was look out the window at it blowing 40, 60 miles per hour,” said the 73-year-old Flannery, who has lived in the area for nearly 30 years. “At some point, you just have to dig yourself out.”
Send Relief is monitoring the situation.
“In coordination with state and local emergency responders, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) and Send Relief have not been requested to participate in the Buffalo response,” said Josh Benton, Send Relief vice president of North American Ministry. “Send Relief is in communication with churches and local officials in the area and is prepared to provide support as needed.”
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has a history in the area. An October 2006 snowstorm, Flannery said, knocked power out for eight days and resulted in some 900 Disaster Relief chainsaw jobs.
The blizzard’s devastation in an area accustomed to heavy snow is being attributed to occurring days before Christmas when many were traveling and many emergency response personnel were off for the holidays.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Erie County Sheriff John Garcia of the devastation.
A deadly mass shooting in May led to the nation seeing how the Buffalo community bands together amid tragedy. Flannery has already witnessed the same this week.
“Churches are helping dig each other out. People help their neighbors in distress,” he said. “I helped a neighbor, and he helped me. I delivered a Christmas ornament back to him and we struck up a relationship.”
With temperatures climbing near 50 today (Dec. 29), Flannery said the next concern is flooding that may come with the heavy snow melt.
“We’ve done flood recovery many times,” he said. “We may have to do it again.”