Dorian skirts Carolinas; Baptists move to respond

Hurricane Dorian made landfall Sept. 6 in northeast North Carolina as a Category 1 storm at Cape Hatteras as first responders in the Bahamas worked to reach survivors after the storm’s devastating visit to those islands. Southern Baptists are serving on both fronts.

As the storm traveled up the east coast, flash flooding occurred in some areas, and wind downed trees in the Carolinas. Tornadoes also spun off the storm. Power went down, and the storm claimed at least four lives in the Southeast.

Meanwhile, search and rescue operations and damage assessments continued in the Bahamas. Early reports stated that the death toll had risen to 30, with hundreds missing.

“It’s unprecedented how Hurricane Dorian went over the islands,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. “They have hurricanes all the time, but this one was different because of how long the storm sat there.”

On the island of Abaco, the primary concern appears to be issues related to sanitation and shelter, Palmer said. BGR officials have been seeking to transport food and water to areas of need.

So far, the needs in the Bahamas center on providing temporary shelter in the short term, and aiding in repairs and construction over the long term. BGR is assessing ongoing needs to determine the best ways to respond both through partnerships with the local government and through the network of Baptist churches.

“There are a lot of churches there that we can come alongside and help as they help their countrymen, all for the glory of God,” Palmer said.

In the U.S., Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders expressed both their relief that Hurricane Dorian did not create similar havoc in the Carolinas, along with their resolve to assist those who were impacted by the storm.

“Dorian developed into an incredibly strong storm, and we’re thankful that it did not make landfall as a major hurricane,” said Sam Porter, national director for SBDR with the North American Mission Board, who traveled to North Carolina to encourage volunteers.

The Carolinas experienced the brunt of Dorian, especially along the shoreline.

“There are some places right along the coastline that were impacted,” said Jack Frazier, an SBDR leader for North Carolina Baptists. “We’ve had several tornadoes hit. There has probably been more significant damage from the tornadoes that spun off, almost more than damage from the hurricane itself.”

A Send Relief truck that NAMB dispatched to the area was filled with rolled roofing, flood cleanup supplies, and some food. The truck was unloaded at the North Carolina Baptist disaster relief facility in Red Springs, N.C. The proximity to the South Carolina border allows both state disaster relief teams to access the materials.

As the storm completed its trek over North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the vulnerability of the area led to heavy damage from the wind and storm surge. Frazier said he will need SBDR teams from other states to help with recovery.

— Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.