News Articles

Fay’s heavy rains continue in Fla.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Tropical Storm Fay made it to the Atlantic coast Wednesday but stalled in the Cape Canaveral area, after passing across the Florida Keys Monday night and making a second Florida landfall early Tuesday morning in southwest Florida south of Naples.

Fay’s heavy rains have spawned widespread flooding and power outages in South Florida. On Thursday, the storm continued its slow northward trek in the Atlantic toward the Jacksonville area and the state of Georgia. A third landfall in Florida remained a possibility.

Florida Baptist disaster relief workers were beginning to respond to the damage left by Fay, beginning in the Barefoot Bay community south of Cape Canaveral where a tornado and high winds tore through 30 homes.

Gary Gates, director of missions for the Brevard Baptist Association, told the Florida Baptist Witness both of the association’s disaster relief trailers would be staffed with 10-15 trained volunteers who will help remove tree limbs and aluminum strewn across the neighborhood and repair roofs with tarps and plywood.

“We always have a time of prayer with the people who own the homes and witness of God’s love to them,” Gates said, talking on the phone from his own home where he said the water on the street had been rising steadily for about 24 hours.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, in a petition sent Wednesday evening to President Bush requesting an emergency declaration for the entire state, noted that rainfall totals in excess of 30 inches had been forecast for the southern half of Brevard County.

The Florida Baptist Convention reported clean-up crews led by Duke King of Central Baptist Church in Melbourne were in Barefoot Bay along with Larry Alloway, regional disaster relief coordinator, and Terry Ryan, a contract employee who brought resources including roofing materials. Teams from the Brevard Association will be assisted by the Lake and Treasure Coast associations, the convention reported.

Fritz Wilson, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s disaster relief and recovery department, met with Red Cross officials Wednesday, according to a convention news release, and Wilson said there is a possibility churches may open feeding stations for those who volunteer and those affected by the storm.

Further up the coast, where heavy rain began falling early Wednesday, Dennis Belz, director of missions for the Halifax Baptist Association, said at least one church was being used to shelter people from the storm.

Spruce Creek Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, in a wooded area two miles west of Interstate 95, opened as a shelter and would remain open until the floodwaters subside, Belz told the Witness.

“Everybody seems to be doing all right,” Belz said Wednesday. “The wind is stronger today than it was yesterday, but it’s still down south of us.”

David Garrett, director of missions for the Jacksonville Baptist Association, said churches in the Jacksonville area are well-trained and experienced in handling storms.

Recalling Florida’s historic hurricane season in 2004 when four named hurricanes hit the state in the span of six weeks — Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan — Garrett said, “The key is understanding what could happen and be prepared just in case.”

Knowing exactly how to prepare for a storm which can cause tree limbs to scatter, tornados to flurry, and which can change course on a dime, can be elusive, he admitted.

“You don’t know which limb is going to knock out which power line,” Garrett said. “And it may not be a big event, but all it takes is one limb to knock out one power line and you don’t know which area of town is down.”

Some churches cancelled mid-week services and other events Wednesday, including First Baptist Church in Orlando and First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. The Florida Baptist Convention building closed at 3 p.m. Wednesday and will not re-open until Mon., Aug. 25.

Disaster relief leaders, according to the convention release, will continue to work with local officials and the State Emergency Operations Center to monitor the situation across the state.
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.floridabaptistwitness.com), newspaper of the Florida Baptist Convention.

    About the Author

  • Joni B. Hannigan