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South Florida goes through drill yet again

South Florida goes through drill yet again

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

South Florida goes through drill yet again

Sept. 19, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0368}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

ORLANDO — Contact members and make sure they're safe. Board up windows on churches, parsonages and homes. Make sure pastors in the Keys are evacuating. Put hymnals in the plastic boxes bought for the last go-around.

With debris from Hurricane Katrina still in yards and streets, conference leaders, churches and members across South Florida are once again preparing for a hurricane.

Tropical Storm Rita is currently tracking toward the Florida Keys. It is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane as it passes through the Keys Tuesday. 

The Rev. Debbie McLeod, superintendent of the Florida Conference's South East District, said people are more concerned about the storm surge they've been told to expect than the wind, as well as damage that could be caused by existing debris.

She said she has been calling pastors living in the Keys to find out how they're doing and preparing, all while trying to secure the district office, which is located in Miami and sustained some damage during Katrina.

McLeod hasn't been able to get in touch with everyone, but said most are heeding the order to evacuate that's in effect for residents living in areas south of the middle Keys. There are always some holdouts, however.

"The concern is there are lots of 'conchs' (natives of the Florida Keys) who just never leave ... " she said. "There's concern over church members. Some buildings have damage from Katrina. We're concerned about the farm workers living in trailers and shacks."

McLeod said shelters are open, but she's not sure how many of the migrant farm workers in the Miami-Dade area whose homes were damaged will go to them because of fears of being questioned by immigration officials.

Many of the farm workers are now not able to work because of damage to crops caused by Hurricane Katrina. Local churches are gathering food, supplies and other items to help them through this latest crisis.

"There's a kind of building anxiety," McLeod said. "There's the constant news about Louisiana. ... Everyone is polite, cooperative, but there's a lot of anxiety going through this drill again."

Bob Ladner says he was sick of the hurricane season three weeks ago. "This is a hurricane season where all useful work in Miami-Dade County has ceased," he said, adding everyone is focused on what's happening as a result of past storms and watching for the next one.

Ladner lives in the Coral Gables area of Miami-Dade County and is the disaster response coordinator for the conference's South East District. He said he just repaired damage to his own roof caused by Katrina.

He said people, especially in the Keys, have prepared for so many hurricanes they "know the drill."

"People are going to board up, going to take precautions for life and property, but there's not a panic response," he said. "People are tired, but they're resolute."

Ladner describes the attitude among South Floridians as a sense of resignation. "We're going to have another hurricane, but we still don't have the last mess cleaned up, but it's not the end of the world," he said, adding people are already thinking beyond the preparation phase to cleanup.

He said one church pastor told him, "Oh, it's the hurricane drill. We'll see if we can do it faster this time."

Ladner says the most important thing people in his district can do after the storm is find out what's happening with their neighbors.

"There's not going to be as much drama as in New Orleans, but there will be pockets of misery here," he said.

He's urging pastors and members to "get out of the pulpits, get out of the pews and get in these neighborhoods and see who's hurting. Our duty is not to our congregations, but to our neighbors."

How churches and members can help

* Gather supplies for Florida and other affected statesFor Florida: Migrant workers in South Florida were hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. Florida City United Methodist Church/Florida City Hispanic Mission is collecting rice and beans, non-perishable food stuffs, diapers, health kits, new men's blue jeans in small and medium sizes, new men's t-shirts (or clean t-shirts in good condition) and baby clothes. Call Diane Gutierrez at 305-247-0911 to arrange for delivery of items. Health kit items can be found at For other states: The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) no longer needs donations of bottled water, but other items are in short supply, including health kits, school kits, new sets of twin sheets, new pillows, new blankets and new air mattresses. Health and school kit items and packaging instructions may be found at Items can be sent to the Florida Conference Disaster Response Depot in Madison (call to make delivery arrangements: 850-869-0882 or 850-929-4938) or UMCOR's Sager Brown Depot, P.O. Box 850, 131 Sager Brown Road, Baldwin, LA 70514-0850 (please also provide $1.00 per kit to cover distribution costs and send it to Sager Brown UMCOR Advance #982730, "Contain Your Joy").

* Organize volunteer teams — Teams wanting to work in Florida or affected areas in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi should contact the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center (SRC) at 800-282-8011, extension 149.

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

Individuals looking for family members or friends who live in affected areas should call the Salvation Army at 847-709-6700 or the American Red Cross at 800-435-7669.

The SRC can be reached at 800-282-8011, extension 149.


This article relates to Disaster Response.

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