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The ice storm cometh, the ERTs respondeth

S.C. UMVIM early response teams help after ice storm ravages state

By Billy Robinson

On Feb. 12-13, South Carolina was hit with a severe winter ice storm that crippled many areas of our state with downed trees, widespread power loss and hazardous conditions that had not been seen for 10 years. Some have labeled it the ice storm of the century for South Carolina. 

S.C. United Methodist Volunteers In Mission Early Response Teams went into action as early as the first day of the storm, helping local fire departments and emergency services personnel cut fallen trees and debris out of primary and secondary roadways.

On Feb. 13, ERT crews located near North helped fire and rescue crews cut a roadway on Arnold Road so an ambulance could gain access to transport a sick child to an advanced life support facility.

On Feb. 15, ERT crews cut out a very large pile of trees and rubbish on Winslow Street in Orangeburg to free three elderly people who had been unable to get out since the storm. One person was also a cancer patient in need of medication. Hidden in the entangled debris was a vehicle, which was also freed.

On Feb. 16, crews cut access to an 87-year-old woman just off of Main Street in Barnwell and found the woman had no electricity or phone and had not been able to contact the power company. Team members contacted the power company for her and they were to check on her promptly, as power had already been restored to the general area. Two huge limbs were also cut and removed from the roof of her house and two over her carport, plus walkway access.

Feb. 17 found ERT crews back in Barnwell cutting limbs and clearing debris off the home of 91-year-old Mary Hanks. We try to always leave a Christian brochure and a devotion booklet at every home we respond to. My wife, Trudy, handed a Strength for Service  book to her before we got started with work on her home. After clearing limbs and debris from her roof, I descended a ladder and Hanks got out of her wheelchair, walked to the front door and motioned for me to come there.

With great sincerity, she looked at me and said, When your wife first greeted me she asked me if I had power. I stated, ˜Yes, I do now, but was without any power for four days. She handed me this ˜Strength for Service devotional booklet. As your team got to work, I opened the booklet and read the first devotion I came to. It was titled ˜The Power of God. 

With deep emotions Mrs. Hanks then said, Wow, the power of God! All the time I thought I was without power; I really had all the power I will ever need for I have the awesome ˜power of God! 

Chills ran across my body as I was hit with the reality of what the real and true power of God  is all about. With it we can have the courage to reach out to others during their times of need and receive priceless gifts such as the gift of wisdom from those we serve, courage to withstand all the storms of life, and faith to move mountains.

These are just a few of many situations that played out across S.C. that we had the God-given honor and privilege of helping with as God s hands and feet  to hurting and distraught people.

As of press time, chainsaw work/debris-clearing have occurred at 68 homes and churches across S.C. Nine homes have had some form of roof work, such as placing a tarp over holes caused by fallen trees or debris. And four homes have been temporarily provided with generators. On Feb. 18, a team of six led by the Rev. Ken Phelps headed back to the Manning area.

A total of 51 UMVIM ERT volunteers dedicated an abundance of hours to helping others during their times of dire need all across S.C., with major focus in some of the hardest-hit areas in the counties of Aiken, Orangeburg, Bamberg, Sumter, Dorchester, Bamberg, Barnwell, Clarendon, Charleston and Berkeley.

Robinson is the S.C. UMVIM ERT disaster coordinator.

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