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Disaster relief units respond to icing, floods in eastern U.S.


ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief
units have responded in force to the recent storm system
that brought severe flooding and icing to much of the
eastern United States, as well as to a “super-typhoon” that
struck Guam in mid-December.
Feeding units from Ohio, Virginia and a consortium of
four Northeastern Baptist conventions have responded to
icing and flood conditions in upstate New York that have
left thousands living in shelters. Also, units from
Tennessee and North Carolina are responding to flooding in
an area of the Smoky Mountains on their common border.
Discussions are currently under way regarding possible
involvement in other New England states and Canada,
according to Mickey Caison, national coordinator for
Southern Baptist disaster relief and an adult volunteer
mobilization associate for the North American Mission Board.
More than 400,000 people in Maine and more than 100,000
in northern New York were without utilities days after the
storm, according to the Associated Press. Outages affected
13,000 homes in New Hampshire and 6,000 customers in
Vermont.
After causing deadly floods across the South, the storm
spread thick, clinging ice across the Northeast and the
eastern third of Canada. Fifteen deaths in Canada were
blamed on the storm, five in New York and three in Maine.
Flooding killed 11, including seven in Tennessee. The damage
in Maine alone was estimated at nearly $6.2 million.
In upstate New York where Southern Baptists currently
are offering aid, more than 110 shelters were still open
Jan. 14, Caison said.
“There has been some thawing but there has been a lot
of ice, and there’s also the fact they are having to rebuild
some electrical grid systems,” Caison said, noting simple
repairs are often impossible because of the devastation.
The three Southern Baptist feeding units began
operations Jan. 12. The Northeast unit, based in Syracuse,
N.Y., is operating in Watertown; the Ohio Baptist
Convention’s unit is in Malone further to the east; and the
Virginia Baptist unit is located in Plattsburg, N.Y. All
three units prepare meals for distribution to shelters
operated by the American Red Cross. Southern Baptists are
the only national group providing mass food preparation
services for the Red Cross.
In Tennessee, the Sullivan Baptist Association feeding
unit and a cleanup unit from Tennessee Avenue Baptist
Church, Bristol, Tenn., responded to flooding in Roan
Mountain in extreme east Tennessee. North Carolina disaster
relief units have responded to flooding in the
Newland/Bakersville area directly across the state line.
According to Caison, the warm-water pattern in the
Pacific Ocean known as El Nino might have been a factor in
the storm.
“Right now El Nino is impacting the southern United
States and the East Coast because it is feeding the warm,
moist air across Mexico and in from Southern California,” he
said, adding increased severity of winter storms had been
expected because of the phenomenon.
Southern Baptists also are responding to the “super
typhoon” that struck the Pacific island of Guam in
mid-December, Caison said. That storm left 1,350 homes
destroyed and another 1,805 with major damage. More
recently, an earthquake registering 5.4 on the Richter Scale
shook the island Jan. 8.
Disaster relief volunteers from Hawaii have been on
site lending assistance, and NAMB adult mobilization staff
member Mike Bailey is in Guam assessing needs for further
Southern Baptist involvement.
Tony Smith, pastor of Marianas Baptist Church in Guam,
reported the church has missed only one Sunday service since
the storm hit.
“Last Sunday we had over 200 people in worship,” Smith
said. “I baptized five people, and four others joined the
church. It is amazing what you can do and go through with
the Lord’s help. He never stops watching over you. I have
said to many I’m glad I serve a God with this kind of
power.”

    About the Author

  • James Dotson