S.C. flood response: Southern Baptists mobilize

With dams continuing to fail in South Carolina Oct. 7, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders gathered by conference call to plan a multi-state long-term response to historic flooding that has overwhelmed the state.

SBDR command centers have been established at the South Carolina Baptist Convention office in Columbia and at the Charleston Baptist Association where a North American Mission Board mobile command unit is stationed.

South Carolina Baptist disaster relief director Randy Creamer has placed all of the state convention’s DR volunteers on alert for potential service, knowing that many of them are flood survivors themselves. Creamer said he expects to request assistance from fellow SBDR Region II states Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

Although Hurricane Joaquin did not make U.S. landfall, the weather pattern it created dumped a historic deluge on South Carolina Oct. 3-5. The rains are blamed for 17 weather-related deaths in North and South Carolina. Flooding is widespread. As of today (Oct. 7), the South Carolina Emergency Management Division reported 12 dam breaches, including one intentional break to alleviate upstream flooding. The South Carolina Department of Transportation reported 271 road closures and 143 bridge closures Wednesday morning. Shelter counts, however, are low because survivors have moved in with family and friends.

“We have had assessment teams serving the last two days,” Creamer said. “Some trained mud-out teams have already self-deployed to help their neighbors. We have had a mobile kitchen serving in Columbia supporting first responders and emergency management staff. We will have a second kitchen operating tomorrow. We have distributed 2,000 cases of water through four church locations.”

Feeding of survivors may not be a large part of the response, but long-term recovery and mud-out will be. “It may get worse before it gets better,” Creamer said.

North Carolina fared much better overall. North Carolina disaster relief coordinator Gaylon Moss said they expect to serve up to 20 flood survivors in Brunswick County, N.C. Moss will lead SBDR efforts in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area.

Mickey Caison, interim executive director for the NAMB SBDR, is assisting by heading the mobile command center in Charleston. Caison and Creamer met with leaders of the Charleston Baptist Association and Screven Baptist Association Wednesday (Oct. 7).

“We started working assessments on Tuesday,” Caison said. “We are still days away from the crest from the rains and the water receding. Now we have to wait until the water is gone before we can get volunteers in to help.”

A NAMB semi-truck with supplies is expected to arrive in Columbia on Thursday and Charleston on Friday. A second truck is on its way to Washington State with ash-out and recovery supplies to aid survivors of western wildfires.

NAMB also will be deploying two shower trailers, two recovery units and a generator to South Carolina.

“Time and again, when disaster brings the worst, Southern Baptists respond with the best,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “We will serve alongside our partners, assist our fellow Southern Baptist volunteers and help survivors in every way we can. Our prayers are with the people of the Carolinas.”

Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”

NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.

Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers—including chaplains—and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

Updates on the latest SBDR response are available at namb.net/dr/atlantic-coast-floods.