UPDATED Oct. 10, 1:30 p.m.
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — “This year is beginning to look more like our 2017 hurricane response,” said Sam Porter, national director for disaster relief with the North American Mission Board, as Hurricane Michael pressed toward the Florida Gulf Coast Oct. 9 prior to its landfall today (Oct. 10) as a Category 4 storm.
“The storms are simply happening a month later than they did last year,” said Porter, who is coordinating with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief directors across the Southeast and NAMB’s Send Relief leadership ahead of Michael’s landfall.
“We’ve had Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now three weeks later, we’ve got Hurricane Michael taking aim at Florida and Georgia,” Porter said. The most devastating of last year’s hurricanes began with Harvey and Irma in August followed by Maria in September.
SBDR has been hard at work since Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14. That major response — along with responses to wildfires out West, major flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the Heartland — has Porter warning Southern Baptists against the potential for “compassion fatigue.”
The tendency is for people to lose their sensitivity to the news of damage, flooding and homelessness, he said.
“There’s an extreme urgency to call Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and churches to be faithful in the response,” Porter said. “There are still thousands of people needing help who have not received it yet.
“The Lord calls us to be compassionate every day of our lives. ‘Do not be weary in well-doing,'” he said, paraphrasing Galatians 6:9.
Since Hurricane Florence made landfall, SBDR has prepared more than 1.1 million meals, cleared more than a thousand yards and completed flood cleanup on more than 240 homes.
Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm, will be shipping resources from its ministry center in Appalachia as it did in preparation for Florence. SBDR volunteers and local churches will distribute those supplies, as well as feeding and ministering to people in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
With Hurricane Michael’s landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., damage from storm surge and wind pummeling were expected over large portions of the state’s Gulf Coast. Damage and power outages are expected to extend through Georgia, potentially reaching into the Carolinas.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered emergency evacuations and declared a state of emergency in more than 30 counties, warning that Michael could be “the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades. This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 92 counties. “The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael,” Deal stated. “In light of the storm’s forecasted track, I encourage Georgians in the affected counties to be prepared and remain vigilant.”
Unlike Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, Michael is not expected to carry the same flooding risk beyond the initial storm surge, with the hurricane predicted to move fairly quickly through Florida and into Georgia.
Florence remained over North and South Carolina after making landfall, dropping feet of rain in some regions, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates a moderate risk of flash flooding in Florida and South Georgia. Instead, a wider area likely will be affected by wind damage and power outages as Michael buzzes through the South.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. The North American Mission Board provides national coordination and assistance in larger multi-state responses.
To donate funds or find ways to volunteer with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit namb.net/hurricane-relief.