SC Baptist volunteers participating in response to massive Hurricane Ida

Sixteen years to the day after Katrina’s historic landfall, Hurricane Ida arrived in Port Fourchon, La., around noon on Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams have started assessing damage and preparing their response.

South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief units will be participating in the Hurricane Ida response. The initial plan as the storm was approaching was for states west of the Mississippi to assist Louisiana and the eastern states to assist Mississippi. That plan will likely be adjusted, as it looks like there was less damage in Mississippi than anticipated.

All SCBDR units were on standby to respond Aug. 31, awaiting more specific details on the needs. Volunteers should contact their unit leaders about their availability; unit leaders should contact the Disaster Operations Center at the South Carolina Baptist Convention with the dates units can serve.

With 1500-mph winds, Ida is one of the strongest storms to hit the mainland United States. By Monday morning, Aug. 30, the storm finally decreased to a tropical storm and was expected to track across the Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee before continuing its northeastern trajectory into New England and back out into the Atlantic.

New Orleans Police detective Alexander Reiter looks over debris from a building that collapsed during Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, Monday, Aug. 30. Hurricane Ida knocked out power to all of New Orleans and inundated coastal Louisiana communities on a deadly path through the Gulf Coast that is still unfolding and promises more destruction. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“We hurt with the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, particularly Louisiana after they were hit so hard last year by hurricanes Laura and Delta,” said Coy Webb, disaster response director for Send Relief. “We pray for them and know how difficult it is for them.”

SBDR and Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm for Southern Baptists, anticipate a major crisis response. Already, SBDR volunteer teams from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and North Carolina were on standby to serve in Louisiana. Some teams began driving and sheltered just outside of the storm’s path so they could respond more rapidly.

Louisiana SBDR teams began conducting their assessments as soon as they were able to prepare to welcome in outside SBDR teams to assist with the response. Mississippi disaster relief teams anticipate working primarily in their state, at least initially, Webb said.

“We appreciate our great Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers who are preparing to roll in, and the many who have already started rolling in,” Webb said. “We are grateful for the help and healing they are always ready to provide after disaster events.”

So far, SBDR expects to set up multiple kitchens across the affected areas, each with the capacity to prepare at least 10,000 meals a day. As assessments continue, those locations are still being determined. Those needs are expected to ramp up, as those who have evacuated return to assess the damage done to their homes and property as widespread power outages persist.

Send Relief delivered initial supplies – temporary rolled roofing, meals and other supplies – on Aug. 27 ahead of the storm. An additional semi-truck was being loaded Aug. 30 from a Send Relief ministry center in Ashland, Ky., to send more temporary roofing, 175,000 meals, flood recovery supplies, chainsaw fuel and generators, along with other resources.

The Send Relief truck was expected to reach affected areas by Sept. 1, dropping supplies first in Mississippi on its way south to provide support to SBDR in Louisiana.

Stan Statham, Louisiana’s SBDR director, and Hubert Yates, SBDR director for Mississippi Baptists, requested prayer for their teams as they survey damage and plan to respond to those in need.

Those looking to support Send Relief and SBDR can give through the Send Relief website.

— Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. With additional reporting by The Baptist Courier.