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Florida flooding, Colorado wildfires prompt DR response
First Baptist Live Oak base of operations for DR teams

June 29, 2012

While Hurricane Debby blew ashore in the Big Bend of Florida creating historic flooding earlier this week, monster wildfires raging in Colorado and other Western states have kept Southern Baptist leaders busy mapping responses in both parts of the country.

In north Florida, where Debby finally moved inland June 26 after hovering in the Gulf of Mexico for days, massive flooding took place in parts of the Florida Panhandle where relentless tropical rains opened sinkholes and forced people from their homes, off the roads, and even off main highways.

Fritz Wilson, disaster relief director for the Florida Baptist Convention, said a response plan is being developed as the ground water from torrential rain
as much as 25 inches in some areas begins to recede.

Emergency officials said Debby, downgraded to a tropical storm with winds just under 40 mph before it moved inland, was responsible for 7 deaths, most related to rip currents and tornadoes.

In Live Oak, just west of Jacksonville, about 80 percent of the town was underwater and the entire state was under a state of emergency, according to the Weather Channel.

"We will concentrate on the Live Oak area," Wilson said, adding that in his 16 years in Florida, he's never seen Live Oak
county seat for Suwannee County with about 7,000 people — flood. "It got 20 inches of rain in a 24-36 hour period. It'll be another week before the water is out because the area is flat and the water will have to go back down through the water table."

Wilson said some 150-250 homes in Live Oak were affected by the flooding, requiring at least 40-50 mud-out jobs by Florida DR volunteers. Wilson said the Florida DR will request one of NAMB's new flood response trailers, which includes sprayers and pressure washers for doing mud-out work.

With Florida DR's Eddie Blackmon as the area commander, First Baptist Church in Live Oak will be the base of operations for the disaster relief teams. Some feeding also will be done, using the church's own kitchen, Wilson said.

With Florida DR's Eddie Blackmon as the area commander, First Baptist Church in Live Oak will be the base of operations for the disaster relief teams. Some feeding also will be done, using the church's own kitchen, Wilson said.

Blackmon said June 29 he had surveyed the area Wednesday and found two large subdivisions where homes where filled with 3-feet of water. A local sheriff estimated at least 500 homes will need help—and so far 20 families have contacted First Baptist Live Oak for assistance.

"First Baptist Church is ready to respond and open doors for our teams to meet needs in the community and bring help and hope to the people of Live Oak," Blackmon said. He anticipates the local response to begin immediately where waters have receded while more teams are being prepare to move in July 8 and begin work July 9.

At the request of the American Red Cross and Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief is transporting water already previously stocked to Suwannee County, according to a spokesperson from the Florida Baptist Convention.

Donations to help the flood victims and Florida Baptist Disaster Relief’s response can be sent to 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32207 or on-line at www.flbaptist.org/OnLineGiving/MakeaDonationNow.aspx. Please designate: disaster relief.


Mickey Caison, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team leader for the North American Mission Board based in Alpharetta, Ga., said it will a few days before the DR people in Colorado will have access to the fire affected areas.

"We're consulting with the state disaster relief leaders and developing a plan for how we can help,” Caison said. “Once they gain access, they will determine how much and what kind of help they will need. Once the fires are out, we will support a cleanup operation."

From NAMB's disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., Caison, Wilson and NAMB staff members coordinate and manage Southern Baptist Disaster Relief responses to major disasters throughout North America via a partnership among NAMB and the SBC's 42 state conventions, most of which run their own state disaster relief programs with state convention-owned assets.

Total SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the largest mobilizers of trained, credentialed disaster relief volunteers in the United States, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army.




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