By Susan Kim, UMCOR
A week after Hurricane Isaac inundated the U.S. Gulf Coast, United Methodists were deploying trained responders, caring for storm survivors, and using church-to -church connections to as- sess ever-changing needs.
Checking on neighbors and mucking out homes were the first priorities in Mississippi, where Wayne Napier, disaster response coordinator for the Mississippi Conference, observed inland flooding that reached further north than originally expected.
“We experienced more upland flooding because the rivers couldn’t empty into the gulf,” he said. “The scope of our work grew geographically with every hour that went by. We are seeing flood damage more than 100 miles north of the Gulf.”
In addition, the loss of soy- bean and rice crops will leave many in that state under economic hardship.
UMCOR has sent $10,000 emergency grants to both the Mississippi and Louisiana conferences, and response leaders reported that cash donations, rather than material goods, are the best way to help those affected by the hurricane.
UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana was distributing cleanup buckets and other supplies to flood survivors, and the depot had a total of 9,000 cleanup buckets available when Isaac made its U.S. landfall. In addition to cash donations, people who want to help were being encouraged to assem- ble more cleanup buckets to replenish the depot’s stock.
Though the depot was un- damaged, other areas of Lou- isiana are facing long-term flood recovery. Plaquemines Parish, southeast of New Orleans, sustained some of the worst flood damage, along with St. John the Baptist Parish and the town of Slidell.
Even in the face of grave damage, Louisiana Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey com- mended residents of the state for their resiliency and determination. “The folks in Louisiana were as prepared as anybody could ever be because of their experience. They took care of people in their congregations and in their communities,” she said.
Harvey, formerly the head of UMCOR, agreed with other response leaders who said that cash donations are the best way to help. “Our experience with Katrina, Isaac, and every other dis- aster is that the incredible generosity of the churches has seen us through,” Harvey indicated.
Even as the U.S. was still assessing damages from Isaac, the UMCOR Haiti office and Methodist Church of Haiti were working with local partners there to identify ways to respond to Isaac’s damage. “There was significant flooding reported in many areas, with the risk of mudslides and potential dis- ease outbreak,” said Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR’s assis- tant general secretary for International Disaster Response.
UMCOR’s work will help provide clean water as well as sanitation and hygiene programs to help prevent cholera outbreaks, she added.