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Georgia flooding activates disaster relief teams

Ten die in "once-in-500-year" flood


Randy Smith

Flood waters from the Chattooga River overtake a street in Trion Sept. 22. The river overtook a levee nearby, sending water into nearby homes and apartments. In the week to follow, a Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief feeding unit based at First Baptist Summerville would feed more than 1,000 meals to displaced persons and volunteer workers.

ATLANTA — Thirty-four Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from six state conventions assisted victims of the recent historic flooding in Georgia, which resulted in 10 deaths and damages estimated as high as $500 million across the northern half of the state.

An estimated 20,000 homes were damaged, with 14 counties declared disaster areas by President Barack Obama. Seventeen counties were declared as disaster areas by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

After a two-year drought, several days of steady rain saturated the ground from Alabama through Georgia into eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Torrents on Sept. 21 clogged Atlanta’s Monday morning commute. By mid-afternoon, school buses had to return students to schools because of impassable roads. Parents were beckoned by school officials to retrieve their children. Rainfall amounts for that day alone, according to the National Weather Service, ranged from 9 to 12 inches in western areas of metro Atlanta.

In Austell, about 15 miles west of downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek overflowed its banks, submerging entire neighborhoods in murky water. It is estimated that 50 percent of homes in Austell have flood damage, with an overall total of 50,000 flooded homes in metro Atlanta.

Georgia Baptist Convention disaster relief units responded as early as Tuesday, Sept. 22 with feeding units. Its mudout units were also activated.

“Our immediate goal was to get people back in their homes as soon as possible,” said Stuart Lang, disaster relief coordinator for the Georgia convention. “Prayer is absolutely vital to the effort right now as we assess the damages and needs in various areas that have been affected.”

Randy Smith

Trash from adjacent apartments floats in flood waters on Cooper Street Sept. 22.

NAMB’s disaster operations center – which coordinates disaster response among the 43 Southern Baptist state conventions during major disasters too big for one state to handle within its borders – went into full operation Sept. 26 at the mission board’s Alpharetta location.

“Assessing started Sept. 27,” said Mickey Caison, NAMB’s team leader for adult volunteer mobilization, reporting that 140 homes have already been identified for projects. “[W]e know we’ll have to activate many more units for assessment and recovery,” Caison said.

In support of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s recovery efforts, feeding and chaplain teams were first to respond. Disaster assessment teams from Alabama and Virginia (VBMB) joined recovery teams from Texas Baptist Men, Kentucky, Virginia (SBCV), and Alabama.

The 34 Baptist disaster relief teams operated at nine Georgia sites: First Baptist Church Chattahoochee, Atlanta; West Metro Baptist Association, Lithia Springs; Beulah Baptist Church, Douglasville; First Baptist Church, Powder Springs; First Baptist Church, Austell; Glen Forest Baptist Church, Mableton; First Baptist Church, Summerville; First Baptist Church, Trion; and Ebenezer Baptist Church, Toccoa.

As of Sept. 28, the Georgia feeding unit at First Baptist Summerville had prepared nearly 1,000 meals for flood victims and volunteer workers.

To assist Georgia’s thousands of flood victims, a toll-free number, (800) 460-6881, has been established by the North American Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention to field calls from homeowners needing help to clean up their flooded, mud-filled homes.