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Churches face damage, intense needs after Hurricane Sally

Members of Cottage Hill Baptist Church clean up yards in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. Photo courtesy of Alan Floyd

PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP) – Water damage from Hurricane Sally will keep the building of First Baptist Church Pensacola closed for a while, Pastor Dave Snyder said.

Approximately a foot of water sat in various areas of the church building during and after the storm hit early Wednesday (Sept. 16). The flooding led to balcony damage and puddles of water remained in various places around the building as of late Thursday (Sept. 17).

With church members scattered throughout the Pensacola area, Snyder said his team was still assessing needs while working to partner with Florida Baptist Disaster Relief.

Hurricane Sally damaged piers and washed boats ashore in Dauphin Island, Ala. Photo courtesy of Alan Floyd

Major power outages and fallen trees everywhere were some of the biggest concerns in addition to the flooding. The Category 2 storm brought more water damage than did 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, which came 16 years earlier almost to the day, Snyder said.

“I’m just trying to figure this out,” Snyder said. “It’s been quite a journey for us, especially in 2020, with the pandemic, with racial tensions, with the election coming up, and now with the hurricane.”

But he has been encouraged by his congregation’s response in the storm’s aftermath.

“I love the people of First Baptist and they have shown some true grit in all of this – they just want to get out and serve, they want to get out and help their neighbors and as a pastor that just blesses me,” Snyder said. “Whenever a storm hits the church really rises up above the tide and shows the love of Christ, more than in normal circumstances.”

In comments Thursday (Sept. 17), Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director Tommy Green expressed “the thoughts, love, prayers and support of the Florida Baptist Convention for our panhandle family impacted by Hurricane Sally.”

Green urged Southern Baptists to donate to disaster relief through their local church or through the Florida convention, adding: “The Florida Baptist Convention will be providing assistance with insurance deductibles and financial help to churches for assistance in recovery. Our Florida Baptist family always responds with great generosity and support in times of need.”

Alabama Baptists’ disaster relief efforts also receive direct donations.

Blake Newsom, pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., said his community’s biggest needs are tree removal and generators because of power outages.

While Dauphin Way’s building sustained minimal damage, Newsom said the congregation is already hard at work gathering teams to put tarps on roofs and take care of fallen trees.

The church also is serving as a hub for Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, Newsom said. Teams are staying on the campus, and administrative work is taking place in the facility.

Newsom noted it has been encouraging to have other pastors reach out to him and partner with him as they assess the need and work to serve their community.

“We’re reminded that we’re not in this alone, we’re all facing similar crisis,” Newsom said. “They’re there, fighting alongside us, and that is encouraging.”

Cottage Hill Baptist Church, pastored by Alan Floyd, has three campuses, one of which is on Dauphin Island. Floyd said that while the island was in the storm’s path and saw major flooding, the church’s building had minimal damage because it sits on one of the highest points on the island. Some families used the church’s parking lot to safely park their vehicles during and after the storm.

Floyd said the church’s three campuses give it an advantage in helping communities across the Mobiles area.

Cottage Hill Baptist has its own Southern Baptist Disaster Relief trailer filled with things necessary for storm response, Floyd said. Teams were out helping within 24 hours of the storm’s passing.