UMCOR cleaning buckets provide the supplies people need to begin the overwhelming job of cleaning up after a flood. Photo: Melissa Hinnen
June 28, 2016 — The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) asked for prayers for residents of West Virginia impacted by severe weather and flash flooding since late last week, and who remained vulnerable to new flooding yesterday.
“Please continue to keep the people in West Virginia in your prayers, where flooding has caused havoc,” said the Rev. Jack Amick, senior director of UMCOR Disaster Response.
Greg Forrester, who leads UMCOR’s U.S. disaster response work, said he and Amick have been in contact with the disaster response team of the West Virginia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church since the emergency began June 24.
Forrester underscored that the situation in the most severely affected counties in the state is still one of search and rescue.
“Do not self-deploy,” he urged those anxious to help. “No Early Response Teams (ERT) are to deploy to West Virginia at this time. You will be needed in the future, but not now. First responders need to do their work, including the ongoing search for survivors.”
He said that UMCOR would share a notification when the West Virginia Conference is ready to invite ERTs to assist in recovery efforts. Until then, he urged the UMCOR-trained ERTs and all individuals of good will to not self-deploy and risk getting in the way of first responders and using up needed resources.
Preparation is key
Forrester indicated that the West Virginia Conference had taken significant steps in recent months to prepare to respond to disasters such as this one. Earlier this year, UMCOR helped the conference set up a relief-supply depot, so there were already 1,400 cleaning buckets and 200 health kits on hand, ready to be distributed after torrential rains caused massive flooding and destruction late last week.
He said another 500 cleaning buckets are en route from another depot in Tennessee, and that an additional 1,500 cleaning buckets and 1,500 health kits will soon be on their way to West Virginia from the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network.
Underscoring the importance of preparation, Forrester noted that the West Virginia Conference had taken the additional step of getting its district disaster response coordinators trained, and that UMCOR had supplied a grant that helped them accomplish this.
The conference disaster response coordinator, the Rev. Dan Lowther, said that trained local United Methodist volunteers are responding well despite the challenges presented by the extensive damage the storm and flooding have caused.
In addition to the training and new relief-supply depot, the West Virginia Conference also recently had put a new communications system in place. “It all worked just as we’d planned,” Lowther said.
The state of West Virginia received a federal disaster declaration for the counties most heavily impacted by the flooding — Greenbrier, Roane, and Nicholas. At least 500 homes were severely damaged or destroyed in Roane County alone, and at least 23 people are known to have died in the storm and floods.
What you can do to help
* Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.