*UPDATED* In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, United Methodist disaster response leaders are calling upon people to step up and help as the church prepares for major aid.
The hurricane’s northern eyewall struck Hilton Head Island as a Category 2 storm very early Saturday, Oct. 8, and continued north, weakening to a Category 1 and making landfall in McClellanville, a small town between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Flooding from the storm-surge has been the biggest danger, and early reports are showing whole neighborhoods swamped, piers demolished, trees uprooted and, in Charleston, waist-level flooding in some parts. Hurricane Matthew was a Category 4 storm when it slammed Haiti Oct. 4, killing nearly 900 people and then moving onto Florida, where it claimed the lives of at least six more people before moving north. At least 21 people died in the United States as a result of the storm, including three in South Carolina.
It is the first hurricane to make landfall in South Carolina since Hurricane Hugo devastated the state in 1989.
Matt Brodie, disaster response coordinator for the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, said the church needs people to assess needs in their local communities, as well as begin to give of their time, their buildings and their financial resources.
“We’re still in the assessment phase, and we’re gathering as much information as we can from those who are on the ground, but those who are not affected can still help,” Brodie said.
South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Teams are mobilizing now and beginning to help where able, though many areas are not yet safe. The conference hopes to set up a hotline by the end of the day Oct. 10 for those in need; for now, people who have experienced damage to their homes or church buildings are encouraged to first call their insurance companies and then contact their district offices here to let them know their needs.
Brodie said Oct. 10 that a tractor-trailer of cleaning buckets was being shipped to Bluffton, just outside Hilton Head, to bring initial aid, and a trailer-full of cleaning buckets was also en route to Florence.
For those not affected by the storm, Brodie listed several critical needs:
- Churches in affected areas willing to house disaster response teams (contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-786-9486);
- Churches in affected areas willing to act as distribution centers for relief supplies such as cleaning buckets and health kits, and possibly partner with other organizations with their supply efforts (contact email@example.com or 803-786-9486);
- People to get trained to serve on Early Response Teams; the next official training is Oct. 29, but the conference is considering an earlier training, as well (contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-786-9486);
- People to donate to the UMCSC disaster response fund; funds will help ERTs pay for fuel, supplies, tarps, chainsaws and other necessary tools for the response effort (donate online here);
- People to donate or lend vehicles and supplies, such as box fans for drying flooded homes, a shower trailer for teams or a large pickup truck (Ford F250-style or equivalent) that can haul the relief trailers (contact email@example.com or 803-786-9486);
- People to help assess areas and figure out community needs (contact your district office here with information you discover)
- People to make health kits and cleaning buckets (go here for instructions on how to assemble and what to include); and
- People with big vehicles to haul large quantities of the cleaning buckets and health kits to the distribution centers (contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-786-9486).
“We’re doing what we can now to get ready so that as soon as it is safe for us to respond, we can do so,” Brodie said.
South Carolina Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston urged United Methodists to pray, give and prepare as the storm began its move toward South Carolina. He said The United Methodist Committee on Relief and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission stand ready to provide assistance as recovery efforts unfold.
“We are a connectional church, and we are not alone as we seek to respond faithfully to communities in crisis,” Holston said in his hurricane response on the UMCSC website; read his statement in full here. “We see tremendous evidence of God’s faithfulness in our midst.”
In the aftermath of the storm, the conference is also becoming aware of a cyberscam email circulating, urging people to check for power outages.
“As soon as they open the email, they get a virus,” Brodie said, urging people to be wary and only open emails from trusted sources.
More information will be communicated soon as the response effort unfolds.