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Ike’s impact felt far beyond Texas, La.

CINCINNATI, Ohio (BP)–Besides the mammoth Southern Baptist disaster relief response mounted in Louisiana and Texas after Hurricane Ike, several Baptist state conventions also have deployed volunteers in their own backyards — even as far inland as Ohio.

“It was the perfect storm here in the Cincinnati area,” said Dennis Holmes, associational missionary for the Baptist Association of Greater Cincinnati. “When the remnants of Hurricane Ike met up with a cold front, it was the perfect condition. It was worse than any ice storm.”

Holmes said winds spiked at 84 mph, felling trees by the dozens and knocking power out for more than 1 million people — 800,000 of them in Cincinnati alone.

“Most of the wind came through Cincinnati, Columbus, Lebanon and into the Dayton area,” said Duane Floro, ministry evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. “Some are still without power.”

Floro said disaster relief chainsaw teams were activated east of Cincinnati and, because recovery is not complete, two chainsaw units in Ohio are still working. In addition to local needs, Ohio Baptists also deployed feeding and shower units to Louisiana and later to Texas. In all, the state convention has more than 500 trained disaster relief volunteers.

Although heavy rain was not a factor in Ohio, it was in Illinois, where most of the state, including Chicago, saw rainfall of seven to nine inches. The Illinois River reached near-record flood levels at Utica, Ill., according to Jack Shelby, disaster relief director for the Illinois Baptist State Association in Springfield.

“There was heavy, sustained wind of 65 mph in southern Illinois and widespread tree damage in Massac County,” Shelby said. Massac, Jackson, Johnson and Union Counties in southern Illinois were hit particularly hard. “We had about 60 chainsaw guys and gals working in the southern part of the state.”

After Ike struck the Galveston-Houston area on Sept. 13, Shelby mobilized Illinois feeding, shower, communications, chaplains and chainsaw crews to Texas. Four chainsaw units were sent to Louisiana when Hurricane Gustav hit there on Sept. 1.

“We anticipate having to send mud-out crews — when they return from Texas — to areas along the Illinois River,” said Shelby, who himself is serving in an incident command center at Fort Worth, Texas.

An Illinois Baptist feeding unit is returning home from Cold Springs, Texas, this week but the personnel who staffed it have been redeployed to Galveston, where they will help run a new feeding operation on Galveston Island. Despite having to respond to Ike’s damage back home, the Illinois team prepared more than 10,000 meals and did 100 chainsaw jobs while in Texas.

Coy Webb, associate men’s ministry director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Louisville, said straight-line winds as high as 80 mph raked across Kentucky from west to east.

“Our chainsaw crews, 35 to 50 people, first responded in Fulton, Ky., partnering with disaster relief volunteers from Tennessee along the border,” Webb said. Then they followed Ike’s path through Livermore, Louisville and into Bracken County and Alcorn in eastern Kentucky, Webb said.

While Kentucky Baptists were tackling downed trees in their state, others from the state convention were operating feeding units in Thibodeaux, La., and Beaumont and Angleton, Texas, near Galveston. Other Kentucky DR volunteers were flown directly to Baytown, Texas, to work in the “mega” feeding operation there.

For the second time in only three months, southern Indiana was again hit hard by major storms. Back in June, many towns in southern Indiana were inundated by historic flooding. Homeowners were just finishing repairs from the June floods when Ike stormed through.

“Our bad weather came in on the Sunday after Ike hit Texas,” said Allen Haynes, state disaster relief coordinator in Indiana. “The wind damage knocked 500,000 out of power in southern Indiana, and another 300,000 out in the Gary-Hammond areas,” Haynes said.

Ike gave Indiana a full dose of wind and rain. Haynes said winds upward of 60 mph were recorded, and the Gary-Hammond area received 10 inches of rain. That meant chainsaw and mud-out work were required.

“In all, we dispatched five different teams of about 100 people to work north and south Indiana,” Haynes said. “Because of the work here at home and in Texas and Louisiana, we’ve been stretched pretty thin. We’re still working on 35 to 40 homes for mud-out and tear-out in the Gary and Hammond areas. This year has been unusually rough on us because of everything we’ve had to respond to,” he said.

Indiana Baptist disaster relief teams also were deployed to Texas and Louisiana, supporting a Kentucky feeding unit north of Houma, La., and also doing chainsaw work at Houma.

Overall, since Gustav struck Louisiana on Sept. 1 and Ike hit Texas on Sept. 13, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has recorded: 22,370 volunteer days; almost 2.8 million meals prepared; 42 mud-out jobs; almost 1,600 chainsaw jobs; 28,000 showers provided; and more than 15,000 ministry contacts, including 713 Gospel presentations and 128 professions of faith.
To donate to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief ministry efforts, call toll-free (866)407-6262 or visit www.namb.net. Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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