By Jessica Brodie
COLUMBIA—As South Carolina braces for what could be the worst hurricane to hit the state, United Methodists are turning to preparation, mobilization and prayer.
At the time of this writing, Friday afternoon Sept. 14, Hurricane Florence, downgraded to a Category 1 storm, had made landfall in North Carolina. Its latest path takes it through North and then South Carolina and west, causing rain, possibly tornadoes and flooding.
“Right now we are hunkered down, watching the storm, staged and ready to respond as soon as it is safe to do so, but there is still a lot of uncertainty about its path and its impact,” said Matt Brodie, disaster response coordinator for the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. “We are working with state and county emergency management offices to coordinate both our volunteers and our resources.”
Brodie said “staged and ready” means the conference has resources, teams, coordination and dialogue ongoing before, during and after the storm.
Flood buckets have been placed around the state to be used if needed, with more coming in from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Teams are ready to go with fully stocked trailers as soon as it is safe, able to remove trees, tarp roofs and muck out and deal with other flood damage.
The UMCSC is working closely with UMCOR to coordinate a connectional response and understand and utilize the resources UMCOR has. The conference is also in dialogue with both North Carolina and Georgia about the best way to respond once the impact is clear, Brodie said, “Whether that is their volunteers coming to us or our volunteers going to them or some mix of shared resources.”
As for today and this weekend, Brodie cautioned, stay put and stay safe.
“Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to,” Brodie said. “At this point it’s probably too late to evacuate, so sit tight and do not put yourself or first responders in harm’s way by going out and looking for damage or help or whatever.”
But as soon as the storm clears and it is safe to do so, Brodie urged United Methodists to be good neighbors.
“The best thing people can do after the storm has passed is check on their community, check on their neighbors, check on the most vulnerable, see if there are needs and report those needs back to their district disaster response coordinator or district superintendent,” he said. (See list below.)
South Carolina’s Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said while people might be frightened and uncertain, we should have hope.
“There is tremendous evidence of God’s faithfulness in our midst,” Holston said.
Holston urged South Carolina United Methodists to pray for the families who are impacted by this disaster through the loss of property and livelihood; pray that communities will come together in the recovery process; give generously of your compassion and financial resources; and consider being trained and volunteering for recovery efforts.
Many updates and resources will be posted on the conference website, www.umcsc.org, but if the conference center loses power, the website will be down. With or without power, follow the Advocate on social media (www.facebook.com/advocatesc or https://twitter.com/advocatesc) for the latest updates, as well as the conference at https://www.facebook.com/SCUMC/.
If you need to call the UMCSC for crisis assistance, dial 1-800-451-1954.
Want to get trained to be on the Early Response Team and help in the aftermath of a disaster? Two trainings are coming up (Sept. 22 in Charleston and Oct. 6 in Lexington). Register here: http://www.umcsc.org/data/ertregistration.php
UMCSC district disaster response coordinators:
- Anderson District: Danny Thompson, 864-280-9336, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Charleston District, David Phillips, 843-608-8126, email@example.com
- Columbia, Tony Rowell, 803-463-8975, firstname.lastname@example.org or Shay Long, 803-309-3842, email@example.com
- Florence, Jerry Dicks, 843-625-0722, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Greenwood, Mike Evans, 864-358-9106, email@example.com
- Greenville, Nathan Welch, 864-505-3754, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hartsville, Cornelius Nanton, 843-256-3390, email@example.com
- Marion, Randy Bowers, 843-606-0870, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Orangeburg, Frank Copeland, 864-993-6273, email@example.com
- Rock Hill, Rev. Joe Long, 803-402-6942, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Spartanburg, Chuck Marshall, 803-386-7217, email@example.com
- Walterboro, Marvin Jones, 843-908-4959, firstname.lastname@example.org