Churches cope with Frances in wake of Charley (Sept. 9, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Churches cope with Frances in wake of Charley

Sept. 9, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0158}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Florida Conference disaster response efforts have intensified in the wake of Hurricane Frances, which impacted virtually every part of the state throughout the Labor Day weekend.

Frances caused an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion in insured damage across the state and left at least 15 dead, according to the Associated Press. The storm struck Florida's east coast early Sunday with winds of 105 mph and more than 13 inches of rain, peeling off roofs and flooding streets. It then moved across the state into the Gulf of Mexico and hit northwest Florida as a strong tropical storm before moving into Georgia and northward into the eastern United States.

Reports estimate about 2.8 million residents were ordered to evacuate from coastal areas, barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying areas. Forty counties initiated either mandatory or voluntary evacuations. About 4,930 people were still in Florida shelters as of Sept. 8, with more than 1,370 of them in special-needs shelters. Some were still housing victims of Hurricane Charley.

Up to three million people, or about 17 percent of power customers statewide, were still without electricity as of Sept. 8 and were told it could take up to a week to restore it.

The storm came less than a month after Hurricane Charley, which damaged roughly 20 percent of the state. The last time three storms hit Florida within a six- to eight-week period was 1964 when hurricanes Cleo, Dora and Isabelle slammed the state.

The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Florida Conference Equipping Network, formerly the Conference Council on Ministries, said the conference is in a precarious situation as it begins disaster response for Hurricane Frances, just as Hurricane Charley relief efforts were being solidified.

She said response efforts for the storms are in two different phases, with the conference working through the relief stage with Hurricane Charley and the emergency stage with Hurricane Frances. Burkholder said the three stages of disaster response are emergency, relief and recovery, with the stages lasting up to six, 60 and 600 days respectively.

"We are trying to figure out what needs to go where with Hurricane Frances response," she said. "We are just starting to get pieces of information coming in in terms of what has occurred...It's going to be a delicate balancing act because, psychologically and spiritually, the people in the areas are in two very different places."

Marilyn Swanson, project director of the Florida Storm Recovery Team, said assessment of damage is still being made, but local churches that want to get involved can assist storm victims by donating flood buckets, making financial contributions and forming work teams to go into impacted areas.

Donna Kennelly, the Broward Palm Beach District's Palm Beach County disaster response coordinator, said damage reports in the district range from a lost roof at Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church in Rivera Beach to lost shingles, downed trees and no electricity at most of the district's churches. Kennelly said Lakeside United Methodist Church in Lakeworth and United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach are distribution sites for cleaning supplies, food and water, and New Horizon United Methodist Church in Southwest Ranches and both First United Methodist Church in Pompano Beach and Coral Springs are collection sites for food and water.

Kennelly said area grocery stores began opening Tuesday afternoon, but traveling remains difficult for residents due to debris, downed power lines and trees.

"Things are starting to happen. It's just taking some time," she said. "We know it's going to be slow, but help is on the way."

The Florida Conference risk management office reported between 100 and 120 churches across the state had made insurance claims for damaged churches and parsonages as of Sept. 5. The majority of the claims have been for roof damage, with some churches reporting broken stained glass windows, steeples and church signs. Ninety churches filed insurance claims for damages from Hurricane Charley.

Many claims are pouring in from the Melbourne District. The Rev. Dan Parrish, the district's disaster response coordinator, said 30 out of the district's 45 churches sustained damage. Hardest hit were churches in Fort Pierce, where roofs collapsed at First and Fort Pierce Haitian United Methodist Churches and severe flooding affected the parsonage of White City United Methodist Church. Other district churches sustained roof and water damage to facilities and damage to equipment.

Parrish said the area has a large need for generators, tarps and work teams to begin repairing damage. Community United Methodist Church in Fort Pierce and Suntree United Methodist Church in Melbourne will be staging areas for supplies.

District disaster relief coordinators throughout the state are making preparations to begin funneling food and water to Palm Beach and Brevard counties, as well as other hard-hit areas. They are also assisting churches and pastors in their districts who have experienced storm damage.

Recovery efforts forced Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker to cancel the Sept. 8 Florida Conference Cabinet meeting at which cabinet members were set to assign pastors to churches with openings. In an e-mail alerting cabinet members of the change, Whitaker said the new Oct. 20-22 meeting date was chosen out of sensitivity to clergy and congregations dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes Charley and Frances.

Whitaker said newly appointed pastors will begin their appointments in early January to avoid disrupting activities in December, when churches are celebrating the Christmas season and clergy children are involved in meaningful events at their schools. The postponement means churches without senior clergy leadership will have vacancies for an additional two months.

Frances may have left the state, but residents are slow to rejoice. Hurricane Ivan, another powerful storm and the fourth hurricane of the season, is following Hurricane Charley's path and may threaten Florida this weekend. According to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency based in Barbados, Hurricane Ivan damaged 221 homes in Barbados and left many residents without water and electricity.

"We are all aware of the new threat of Hurricane Ivan," Whitaker said. "I hope that Ivan will not impact Florida."

The Florida United Methodist Foundation has extended two emergency loan programs begun after Hurricane Charley for churches damaged by Hurricane Frances. The Foundation is providing emergency 12-month, 0 percent interest loans of up to $25,000 per church for churches damaged by the storms. A total of $500,000 is available. Sharing Plan loans of up to $50,000 per church are also available at 0.5 percent above the Sharing Plan interest rate, adjustable annually. The current loan rate is 2 percent.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is asking churches and members to donate flood buckets containing supplies storm victims can use during the clean-up phase. A list of items needed is located at on the "Kits" link.


Florida Conference United Methodists are encouraged to send contributions to "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605 to their local church. Church offerings should be sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

Groups interested in forming a work team to assist with hurricane relief and recovery efforts should contact the Florida Storm Recovery Center at 1-800-282-8011, extension 149. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Team can be contacted by e-mail at

Donations for relief may also be made to UMCOR Advance #982410, "Hurricanes 2004," and dropped into church offering plates or mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. People donating by credit card can call 800-554-8583.

For conference news and storm updates go to

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.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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