Conference prepares for Hurricane Charley (Aug. 13, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Conference prepares for Hurricane Charley

Aug. 13, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0137}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham**
 
ORLANDO — As the state’s local emergency response organizations brace for Hurricane Charley to hit the state, Florida Conference disaster response team members are making their own preparations.

“Everyone is aware. Everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing in general preparation,” said the Rev. David Harris, the Florida Conference’s disaster response coordinator and pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Arcadia.

Harris has notified each of the conference’s district disaster response coordinators to be on alert and make plans in their district. He has also contacted the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to make arrangements for assistance and is coordinating with other local emergency response groups, like Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, which will provide “muck-out” teams to help with the initial phase of cleanup after the storm hits.

“We’ve made all the contacts to put into motion the necessary arrangements,” Harris said.

The Florida Conference’s disaster response depot in Madison, near Tallahassee, will be the focus of distribution and collection of supplies, according to Harris. About 1,800 flood buckets are on their way from UMCOR, which is also working on gathering supplies for another 2,000 to 3,000 buckets. UMCOR released a statement yesterday requesting completed flood buckets to be sent to its Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana.

Harris is encouraging the conference’s churches to gather and send flood bucket supplies to the Madison depot, as well as collect offerings this Sunday. Volunteers and churches with vans and trailers are also needed to transport flood buckets and assemble supplies at the depot when they arrive. Harris said United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) volunteers will be critical to response and relief efforts, as well. Interested volunteers should contact the Madison depot Sunday or Monday.

Harris said flooding is going to be the major issue with so many low-lying areas in the path of the storm. “My biggest concern is the size of it [the storm],” Harris said. “When you have something this large…that’s a major thing. This is a major one.”

Several district offices are closed today, including the DeLand, Fort Myers, Leesburg, Orlando, Sarasota and St. Petersburg District offices. The United Methodist Center and Episcopal Office in Lakeland are also closed, and several conference events and meetings were canceled, including the Prayer Chapel groundbreaking service at the Life Enrichment Center in Leesburg scheduled for 9:30 a.m. today.

In a release yesterday from the conference’s communications office churches were notified that Cramer Johnson Wiggins & Associates (CJW), the conference’s claims adjustment company, will be open today and have staff available to take property claims calls Saturday and Sunday. Churches can call toll-free at 1-800-779-4259 to file a claim.

Once the storm hits Harris said churches will be “the immediate assessment” of what is happening in affected areas. He said churches need to survey their communities and work with local emergency management offices to determine the needs and type of assistance they can provide. District disaster response coordinators will be working with churches in their areas to determine needs, then communicating with Harris and their district superintendents.

“The relief efforts will open up opportunities for all of our Florida United Methodist churches to participate,” Harris said in an e-mail release yesterday to all Florida Conference clergy and churches. “This is an incredible mission opportunity for United Methodists in unaffected regions of our state.”

Harris said churches should work with their local church and district disaster response coordinators to obtain resources for community relief efforts.

Now that contacts have been made and preparations are underway, Harris said it’s a matter of waiting and seeing where the storm actually hits. Current estimates have it hitting the Tampa Bay area, but a cold front coming across the Gulf could push it more northeast, tracking the central part of the state over the I-4 corridor and the Orlando area.

In an e-mail update today to district disaster response coordinators Harris reported Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s office estimates damages could be more than 11 billion in structural damages if the Tampa Bay area is hit.

The focus of relief efforts in the coming days and weeks will depend on where Charley finally makes landfall.
 
Completed flood buckets and supplies should be sent to the Conference Disaster Response Madison Depot at 799 West Pinckney Street, Madison. A list of supplies is posted on the Conference Disaster Response site at http://www.amenradio.org or UMCOR’s site at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/print/kits/. To contact the Madison depot call Linda Gaston at 850-973-3225, Margaret Throgmorton at 850-973-2646 or Charlie Peck at 850-973-1490.

Churches and individuals may also make a donation to UMCOR Advance #982410, Hurricanes 2004, which will enable UMCOR to respond effectively and quickly during the hurricane season. The advance number and name of the project should be printed on offering envelopes and in the memo line of checks. Contributions can be made by putting gifts in offering plates during worship; by sending a check to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115; or by credit card, calling toll-free at 800-554-8583.

For conference news and updates related to Hurricane Charley go to http://www.flumc.org/hurricane_watch/.

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This article relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
** Parham is editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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