By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Baptist Paper
PORT FOURCHON, La — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams in several states are on alert for likely deployment in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, which made landfall Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm.
Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, La., around noon Sunday as a high-end Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. The strong winds downed trees and power lines, and heavy rains caused localized flooding in New Orleans and other cities in the storm’s path. At least one death has been attributed to Ida in Louisiana.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards in an early Monday morning tweet asked residents to remain in place due to “many hazards across Louisiana including flooded roadways, debris & downed powerlines.”
A 4 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center this morning (Aug. 30) said dangerous storm surge flooding is still possible along Louisiana’s coast and warned local levees could breach in areas of high storm surge and rainfall.
All of New Orleans was without power Sunday night, and more than 1 million customers in Louisiana and Mississippi were without power as of early Monday. More power outages are anticipated as the storm moves northward.
Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, sent an alert to Tennessee volunteers on Aug. 30, informing them that Tennessee DR will not be responding immediately to Hurricane Ida. “Louisiana and Mississippi disaster relief directors have activated eight feeding units and (determined) where those units go. The feeding unit — from where the unit comes from — will set up an incident command post and man the recovery response to start.
“When they have had time to assess the needs and the possible needs for other teams, that is when we may be called up to bring teams,” he said. “What they are doing is trying to manage COVID protocols by keeping the different states separate. So, if and when we are called upon, we will probably be housed as a state in one location. That said, along with recovery teams, we may need shower and laundry and a small feeding team. Continue to be on alert and I will monitor the situation and will let you know more information as I know it.”
Jones said Tennessee “DR will continue to work Waverly, (where there) is still many flood-recovery jobs to be done. Our mass feeding unit will be pulling out after lunch tomorrow (Aug. 31). I want to thank them for the work they have done and the way they have overcome obstacles that come their way. We are still waiting on FEMA and TEMA to give us the go ahead to start removing buildings from property that is uninhabitable,” Jones said.
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB also responded. “As we have watched Hurricane Ida make landfall over the weekend with devastating force, our hearts go out to those people affected. Having attended seminary in New Orleans, pastored on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 16 years, and lived through hurricanes growing up on the Alabama coast, I empathize with those in Louisiana.
“As we continue our full-throttle response to our own flooding recovery and rebuilding efforts in Waverly and beyond, we will send all the relief we can to Louisiana. First, financial relief, and when needed, disaster relief units,” Davis said.
NOBTS escapes major damage
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary escaped major damage from Ida, according to an Aug. 30 social media update by the seminary’s president, Jamie Dew.
Dew tweeted: “Very thankful this morning. No flooding on campus or major building damage. LOTS of tree and shingle damage. We will open campus as soon as possible, but until you hear from us, DO NOT plan your return to campus just yet.”
Ahead of the storm, Dew and campus leaders recommended evacuation of the campus.
Though Ida weakened to tropical storm strength as it moved inland, the storm is still expected to bring high winds and heavy rains to portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee as it tracks north and east across the U.S.
SBDR teams on alert
As emergency management officials assess damage in the first-hit areas, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams are on alert and preparing a response.
Will Hall, editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, said Disaster Relief leaders in Louisiana are meeting this morning to assess next steps.
“Much of the damaged areas are restricted either by order or to blockages from the storm,” he noted.
Texas Baptist Men reported on Monday morning that TBM Disaster Relief volunteers are headed to Southern Louisiana with a mobile kitchen capable of providing 30,000 meals a day, along with a shower/laundry unit, incident management team, assessors and an electrical support unit.
Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief leaders asked for prayer for those in the storm’s path and for volunteers as they prepare to respond. Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief officials said teams are on alert for likely deployment. Southern Baptist D, “our hearts go out to those people affected. Having attended seminary in New Orleans, pastored on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 16 years and lived through hurricanes growing up on the Alabama coast, I empathize with those in Louisiana.
NOTE: To give to either “Tennessee Flood Response” or “2020-21 Hurricane Fund,” visit www.tndisasterrelief.org and click on the “Give Now” button or mail checks marked with “Tennessee flood response” or “2020-21 hurricanes” to Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, P.P Box 682789, Franklin, TN 37068. B&R — B&R editor Lonnie Wilkey contributed to this report.