Disaster response team determines next step after storm (Aug. 14, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Disaster response team determines next step after storm

Aug. 14, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0138}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham**
ORLANDO — Members of the Florida Conference disaster response team had thought their efforts would be directed at the Tampa Bay area and northeastward from there, but after Hurricane Charley changed course and made landfall in the Port Charlotte area they’re switching gears to meet people’s needs from Fort Myers to Daytona Beach and along the I-4 corridor.

ARCADIA — Trinity United Methodist Church here was just one of the many buildings and homes damaged during Hurricane Charley. It's also a point of operations for relief to the area, with church members providing food and water to residents affected by the storm. Arcadia is 20 to 30 miles from Port Charlotte, where the hurricane made landfall. Photo by the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, Photo #04-0062.

Forecasters had predicted the hurricane would hit the Tampa Bay area, but a cold front coming across the Gulf pushed the storm further east. It made landfall Aug. 13 in the Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte areas of Ft. Myers and caused damage statewide estimated in the billions. Communities in the hurricane's strike path across the state were without electricity, and water lines were damaged in a number of areas as far north as Central Florida's Winter Park community.

“We’re in the phase of trying to assess communities,” said the Rev. David Harris, the Florida Conference’s disaster response coordinator and pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, Arcadia. Harris said several districts have called him to find out what can be done, but it’s not clear at this point which areas will be the focus of relief efforts.

Conference leaders and disaster response team members are meeting with Tom Hazelwood, the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR) executive secretary for disaster response in the United States, Monday afternoon at Faith United Methodist Church here to coordinate efforts. The disaster response team expects to receive damage reports from district offices and disaster response coordinators Monday, as well.

“Our goal [for the meeting] will be to decide a strategy for the response,” said the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of the Conference Equipping Network’s Missions ministry and disaster response efforts. “Some areas…we just don’t know yet [extent of damage] because of the communications.”

Many communities still don’t have power or a way to communicate what needs to be done. Rankin said he’s going to suggest the team define centers at various churches along the path of the storm and coordinate efforts from those locations. 

Efforts are already underway, however. Volunteers from the conference’s depot in Madison, near Tallahassee, are on their way to Port Charlotte with flood buckets. “Across the Florida Conference there is a real response,” Harris said. “Each district coordinator has been bringing churches together to respond.”

Harris said his community ranks with Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda as one of the hardest areas hit. Arcadia is located about 20 to 30 miles from Port Charlotte. “The city is devastated,” he said.

ORLANDO — Homes in the southeast area of Orlando were hard hit by Hurricane Charley, which knocked many of the neighborhoods' oaks into homes and powerlines and left many residents without electricity or water. Photo by Julie Jo Adams, Photo #04-0063.

Harris and Rankin said the Sarasota District has already mobilized to provide assistance, especially to the Arcadia area at this point, and response leaders in the Miami District have communicated that churches there are anxious to send work teams.

The Sarasota District’s First United Methodist Church, Palmetto, organized a barbecue this evening at Harris’ church for residents and church members, many of whom were preparing to take food out to neighbors, who are still without electricity and water.

Harris said one aspect of the disaster effort is certain. “This may take quite some time to finish working with those who are affected by this disaster. We [the United Methodist Church] are here for the long haul,” he said. “When the news has stopped reporting the impact of Charley, when the agencies have all left Florida, we will still be here, and we will need to continue our focus on helping people.”

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.

ORLANDO — After making landfall in the Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda areas, Hurricane Charley traveled northeastward into Central Florida and up the I-4 corridor. Its eye passed over a number of Orlando communities, knocking old oaks into homes and powerlines. Photo by Julie Jo Adams, Photo #04-0064.

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/.


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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