Though flooding, power outages and wind damage have emerged as obstacles after Hurricane Isabel swept the East Coast Sept. 18 and 19, a major antidote to those obstacles has been people helping each other cope with the disaster.

"It's really amazing to see the disaster relief process happen where folks will leave their homes -- and in our situation while the hurricane was still going on here -- and work to help feed the folks in the shelter," Bruce Revel of the Eastern Baptist Association in Salisbury, Md., told Baptist Press. "We had several people who were in the shelter who were not Baptists, but they offered to help and we were able to make use of them as well."

In Gloucester, Va., 309 people were able to take showers Sept. 21 in a Southern Baptist shower unit at a Wal-Mart parking lot.

"It meets a real need, and we were really glad to do it," Jack Noble, head of disaster relief for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, said.

Noble commended a disaster relief feeding unit from Georgia for the way they distributed meals in Gloucester.

"The community loves Southern Baptists," he told Baptist Press.

He also noted the way churches in the area were working together to help church members remove water and mud from their homes and clear away downed trees.

Noble had visited 12 churches by mid-morning Sept. 22 and said that Union Baptist Church in Gloucester had a flooded basement, although most churches fared the storm well and were left with only minor damage.

"What I've seen is people helping each other," Noble said. "Just as each person cleans up their own lot, they help each other clean up their lot too."

In Salisbury, Md., Revel noted that the area "got off pretty light" and did not receive the amount of damage some had predicted. But for those who were displaced, the Eastern Baptist Association activated a North American Mission Board-certified feeding unit at a local shelter. Revel reported that about 400 meals were served for dinner and breakfast Sept. 18 and 19.

"The Gospel was really at work," he said. "We shared with them why we were there, and it was great to see."

The feeding unit has now been requested in Baltimore.

In North Carolina, where some of the worst damage occurred, David Phelps of the Atlantic Baptist Association in Havelock explained that the eye of the hurricane moved through his association at high tide.

"People had to go up into their attics and even to their rooftops to escape the flood," he told Baptist Press.

Phelps reported mostly water damage to homes and churches in the area and said the North Carolina Baptist Men have taken the lead in assessing damage and helping the needy. A large part of the work includes ripping carpet from flooded churches and spraying a Clorox solution as soon as possible to prevent mold.

He also noted that the North Carolina Baptist Men's feeding units were working with the Red Cross to supply food to people affected by the storm. The process of recovery is slow, he said, but it's happening.

At least 35 deaths are being blamed on Hurricane Isabel, and approximately 1.4 million customers are still without power from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported Sept. 22. Across North Carolina, 70,000 homes and businesses remained without power, down from a high of about 691,000, according to AP.

More than two-thirds of Virginians who lost power had it restored, leaving about 700,000 customers still in the dark, according to Dominion Virginia Power, the state's largest provider. Maryland had about 570,000 people still without electricity, Pennsylvania 37,600 and Delaware 6,000. Fewer than 2,000 were still blacked out in West Virginia, AP reported.

High water had not receded in parts of Virginia. The Midtown Tunnel, which is traveled by 40,000 vehicles a day between Portsmouth and Norfolk, Va., was still full of water, forcing many people to board a passenger ferry across the Elizabeth River, according to AP.

President Bush was scheduled to visit the Virginia State Police Academy in Richmond, Va., for a briefing on hurricane damage Sept. 22.

 

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