Florida Conference churches keep wary, weary eye on Ernesto

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference churches keep wary, weary eye on Ernesto

Aug. 28, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
tparham@flumc.org    Orlando {0537}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

Tropical Storm Ernesto tracking across Cuba Monday. Photo courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Web photo only.

ORLANDO — On the eve of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Florida Conference churches are preparing for Ernesto and whatever punch the first-named hurricane of the Atlantic season delivers.

Conference and district leaders and volunteers were busy preparing Monday for a projected landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday somewhere in South Florida. Hurricane watches are in effect along both coasts — from New Smyrna Beach on the east coast and around the bottom tip of the state, including the Florida Keys, to Chokoloskee near Everglades City on the west coast.

Marilyn Swanson, project director for the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center (SRC), said emergency operations center (EOC) officials don’t expect the storm to cause the level of damage Hurricane Wilma caused in 2005, but they remain cautious and urge people to prepare.

Swanson and the SRC staff have been working with district offices and disaster response coordinators to firm up preparations. They have also been in touch with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) group to begin the process of coordinating response efforts. Swanson also says SRC staff are working to strategically place people in EOCs across the state, and she is encouraging churches to attend local EOC meetings to let local leaders and responders know the church is available to help.
“Local churches are much better prepared (this year),” she added, attributing the readiness to a higher level of participation from churches in local church disaster training, which focuses on preparation and planning, and early response training, which focuses on responding to affected areas.

Despite the preparations Swanson said there is some anxiety among churches, especially those that have yet to make repairs to damage caused by Hurricane Wilma. She said some churches have building materials onsite, but can’t use them because other items are needed in order to finish the repairs. In other instances contractors are reluctant to complete the work for fear of it being damaged during this season.

The Rev. Debbie McLeod, superintendent of the South East District of the conference, estimates at least 10 churches in her district still need repairs. Her district was hard-hit during last year’s hurricane season. Throughout the conference approximately 50 churches — out of 690 claims related to hurricane damage — are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma and other storms.

Said McLeod: “We’re getting ready, but people are anxious … storm-weary.”


This article relates to Disaster Response.

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

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