Katrina causes minor damage in Florida compared with other storms

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Katrina causes minor damage in Florida compared with other storms

Aug. 30, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
tparham@flumc.org     Orlando {0351}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

ORLANDO — Hurricane Katrina's first landfall was no Charley or Andrew for Florida. That's the word from Florida Conference disaster response coordinators in affected areas.

Although the storm was a Category 4 hurricane when it hit Louisiana, it was a Category 1 storm when it made landfall on the east coast of south Florida Aug. 25.

"It's not the kind of destruction with Hurricane Andrew," said Bob Ladner, disaster response coordinator for the conference's South East District, which includes churches in Fort Lauderdale, the Miami area and the Keys. "We don't have the kinds of things you saw with (hurricanes) Andrew or Charley."

Ladner lives in the Coral Gables area of Miami-Dade County. He said his street was blocked by downed trees, which are just now being cleared away, and that's typical of the damage the area experienced, particularly in a heavily forested part of Miami called Coconut Grove. There are also localized areas of heavy flooding.

"Unlike other hurricanes, you don't have poles blown over at crazy angles," he said. "Trees are doing damage to power lines — almost exclusively residential — but there aren't huge numbers of houses with roofs gone."

Ladner said churches and ministries in his district have reported some damage. He estimates about four have significant damage, with about half a dozen experiencing minor damage. Ladner said he and his team will be scheduling work teams to go into the area to help reduce problems with mold once flooding begins to recede.

Marilyn Swanson said the conference has received about six insurance claims so far related to the storm. Swanson is project director of the conference's Storm Recovery Center (SRC) and leads the conference's risk management office.

"That's our barometer of what's happening there. Damage to churches is indicative of what's happening in the community," she said, adding she's gotten reports of flooding and lots of trees downed.

"It's not really huge damages to churches and parsonages, but more than they anticipated on the southeast coast," Swanson said.

In an e-mail message to conference leaders and SRC staff, the Rev. Debbie McLeod, superintendent of the South East District, said some families were not prepared because weather reports had indicated Katrina would make landfall as a tropical storm and possibly increase to a Category 1 hurricane.

"Few people had their hurricane shutters up," she said. 

McLeod reported several United Methodist churches and ministries were damaged. Florida City United Methodist Church, which houses the Branches youth and after-school ministry coordinated by South Florida Urban Ministry, reported extensive damage to its building and significant flooding. Marathon United Methodist Church in the Keys also reported water in its sanctuary and fellowship hall. The district office also sustained some damage.

McLeod said she and Ladner have been contacting pastors to check on their status. Most held services Sunday.

"We will know more when we are able to reach all the churches, and when the power is back on so we can see inside the buildings," she said.
McLeod said most parsonages, as well as several hundred thousand homes, are still without power, but stores are now opening along major roads.

"Major roads are cleared, so people are able to get the supplies they need," she said. "Both Broward and Miami-Dade (counties) have done what seems to be a good job of getting ice and water to people, although there are only isolated areas where there is no water."

McLeod said the district will need flood buckets and Ladner is identifying and coordinating collection sites.

For the most part, she says she thinks the district "will be okay."

In the Atlantic Central District, which includes churches in Melbourne, Titusville and West Palm Beach, there was little damage, according to the Rev. Dan Parrish, disaster response coordinator for the district.

He said the rain added to existing problems caused by previous hurricanes, but the storm didn't cause any real structural damage.

Parrish said he has already sent a letter to disaster response coordinators at the churches in his district asking them to consider collecting a special offering to help with relief efforts there.

Knowing the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will be hard at work in states hit by Katrina's second landfall, Swanson said the conference will focus its efforts on areas of the Florida Conference still recovering from last year's hurricanes and communities in and around Apalachicola affected by Hurricane Dennis.

UMCOR is asking specially trained Early Response Teams wanting to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to contact the North Carolina Annual Conference's MERCI Center at 888-440-9167 or merci@nccumc.org. UMCOR's goal is to send the teams where they are most needed and free local annual conference disaster coordinators to work on the over-all response.

UMCOR says United Methodists can respond by:

*  Contributing to UMCOR Advance No. 982523, "Hurricanes 2005 Global." Contributions can be made online at www.methodistrelief.org, at local churches or by phone at 800-554-8583. Checks can also be mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Checks should be written to UMCOR with the Advance number and name written on the memo line. Checks to support recovery in a specific region should reflect that.

*  Assembling flood buckets filled with cleaning supplies for people to use in cleaning their homes. For assembly and shipping instructions, call UMCOR Sager Brown at 800-814-8765 or go to umcor.org online. Financial donations can be made to "UMCOR's Material Resource Ministry," Advance No. 901440, to buy cleaning supplies that the Sager Brown Depot staff and volunteers will use to assemble flood buckets.

*  Volunteering to help in Hurricane Katrina recovery. Write to Mission Volunteers at voluntrs@gbgm-umc.org for contact information for United Methodist Volunteers in Mission jurisdictional and conference coordinators. They can provide details on creating and training a team as well as scheduling. For information on disaster sites that are scheduling volunteers, call the Volunteer Hotline, 800-918-3100.

For information about the effects of the storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and recovery efforts visit United Methodist News Service at http://umns.umc.org.

The General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church has developed "When the Wind Blows: Worship Resources for Use After Hurricanes or Other Natural Disasters." To access that resource for upcoming worship services visit http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=14793.

This article relates to Disaster Response.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

Contact Us

The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church

450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011