North Carolina continues to reel from the damage and flooding left by Hurricane Matthew. As rising rivers have yet to crest in many areas, North Carolina Baptists are responding where they can and as quickly as conditions will allow, a state Baptist disaster relief leader reported Monday.
A team of North Carolina Baptists on Mission serves its first meal Monday at Cedar Falls Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Electrical power is coming from the kitchen trailer’s on-board generator. A tanker truck is supplying potable water for cooking, cleaning and showers. The church and surrounding community do not have power or drinking water.
"[Manna One] was assigned to [Florida] because we didn't think North Carolina was going to get hit as hard as it did," said Brunson, noting the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief ended up needing to take their place in Florida. "Turns out North Carolina probably got hit harder than any other state."
Unit 2, another 30,000-meal-per-day unit, is set up at Cedar Falls Baptist Church on the north side of Fayetteville. Volunteers began serving meals for three counties with lunch Monday.
West Lumberton Baptist Church was flooded during Hurricane Matthew Oct. 8. Because of flooding not all North Carolina Baptist pastors have been able to assess the damage at their churches or their homes.
Virginia Baptist Disaster Response with the Baptist General Association of Virginia has been asked to set up this week at Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount. "They'll probably be set up and running by Wednesday," Brunson said. Meanwhile, a chainsaw crew with Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia was on its way Tuesday morning to South Carolina to help with damage left there by the hurricane, according to SBCV news release. SBCV feeding teams and flood recovery teams remain on standby to assist in North Carolina and South Carolina.
"We've asked Arkansas (Baptist State Convention Disaster Relief) to go to Oakmont Baptist in Greenville," Brunson noted. "We're moving our Unit 3, which is a 20,000 meal-per-day unit, to First Baptist in Kinston. The water hasn't crested yet in Kinston, either."
Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief is setting up at Western Prong Baptist Church in Whiteville.
First Baptist Church in Wallace also will be serving as a host site.
Brunson said the areas encompassing Rocky Mount, Greenville, Fayetteville, Kinston, Clinton, Lumberton and Whiteville appear to have the greatest damage and power outage at this point. Power is not expected to be restored for four to seven days in some counties.
"This is going to be a long [process]," Brunson said. "We could very well be working on homes and churches a year or two from now because of this flood. In places it's going to be comparable to Floyd; in some places it'll be worse than Floyd."
Hurricane Floyd, the sixth named storm and fourth hurricane in 1999, followed a similar path along the eastern seaboard as Matthew did but struck North Carolina when it was a Category 2 hurricane. Floyd was a Category 4 hurricane when it struck the Bahamas and turned up the eastern side of Florida, hugging the coast similar to the way Matthew did.
Hurricane Dennis had brought about 15 inches of rain a few weeks earlier. Nearly every river basin in the eastern part of North Carolina exceeded 500-year flood levels. Floyd was responsible for 57 fatalities (35 in N.C.) and $6.9 billion in damage. (That figure would be $9.8 billion in 2016 monetary listings.) The World Meteorological Organization retired the name Floyd after the massive destruction caused. Hurricane Irene hit about a month later, dropping an additional 6 inches of rain.
In an email Brunson asked N.C. Baptists to "pray for people who were affected by Hurricane Matthew."
"[It] is a very big disaster that will affect our state for a long time," he said. "We plan to be involved in helping people for many days, weeks and even years to come, and we welcome you and your church to be a part of these efforts."
NCBM is also responding to the damage from Matthew in the Caribbean. Paul Langston, NCBM missions mobilization consultant, has left for Cuba. "We have a large water purification unit that delivers 2,500 gallons a day, and we've given it to the Eastern Baptist Convention in Cuba," Brunson said. "They're in desperate need of clean water. We have partners in Haiti that we're working with as well."
K. Allan Blume is chief editor of the Biblical Recorder (brnow.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Dianna Cagle is the production editor for the Biblical Recorder. Baptist Press (baptistpress.com) contributed to this story.