2019AC Offering: U.S. Disaster Relief Response

by | Apr 30, 2019 | Annual Conference Sessions Committee, Billie's Blog

By Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach & Justice

As United Methodists, one of the things we can be most proud of is our nation-wide church support of UMCOR – the United Methodist Committee on Relief. UMCOR is the humanitarian relief and development arm of The United Methodist Church. While UMCOR travels the globe in its effort, this year’s Annual Conference offering is specific to our country and the disasters we are experiencing on an all too regular basis.

In 2018, UMCOR gave the Alabama-West Florida Conference a $4.6 million grant to launch and fund the first two years of a phased four-year recovery program in response to Hurricane Michael. Nearly that same amount has been allocated to the North Carolina Conference, where nearly the entire state was affected by Hurricane Florence. Sadly, some of those areas were still trying to recover from Hurricane Matthew just two years before. The Mississippi Conference received $2.4 million to assist with recovery from multiple disasters in 2018-2019. Since 2002, Mississippi has had 25 FEME-recognized major disasters. Other Conferences in the United States receiving grants from UMCOR in the last year include: $2.3 million to the South Carolina Conference for Hurricane Florence recovery; $1.1 million, Winding Rivers United Methodist Church in Juneau County, Wisconsin, long-term storm recovery; $1 million, West Virginia Conference, long-term flood recovery; $1 million for the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, church repair from Hurricane Maria; $720,000, South Georgia Conference; Hurricane Michael recovery; $700,000, Mennonite Disaster Services, Hurricane Harvey recovery; $100,000, New York Conference, Puerto Rico volunteer coordination partnership and $70,000, Arkansas Conference, Marion County tornado.

These are our United Methodist dollars at work. Providing hope, providing relief, providing connection, providing the tangible illustration of God’s people at work. With every grant, you can bet that our ERT teams are at work. Our own Conference Early Response Team people are formally trained and ready to go when UMCOR issues a request for teams to be deployed. If you would like to know more about this training please contact Dr. Polly Turner at pollyjt@outlook.com or Rev. Tom Mattick at tmattick@me.com regarding upcoming training opportunities, or how to host a training at your church.

In the meantime, your offering this Annual Conference will help to fund relief work all over the United States and assist our church to be in direct ministry to persons in need.

Natural Disasters in the United States

The ten most common natural disasters in the United States are:

  • Heatwaves – While lower in the US compared to the rest of the world heatwaves cause dozens of deaths each year. Heatwaves pose a threat to a person’s ( as well as other living members of Creation) health making it more difficult for the body to cool and maintain its temperature within normal limits. Prolonged exposure to heath, excessive physical effort or very heavy sweating can have negative impacts as well.
  • Drought – There have been 12 major droughts in the last 10 years. Currently, 38.4% of the US is in a drought, with the worst conditions across southern and western parts of the country.
  • Floods – Flooding ranks among the highest financial cost in terms of property damage and can also be devastating in terms of loss of life. EX. 1,836 people died in Hurricane Katrina. Many deaths attributed to hurricanes are from the floods that occur as a result of hurricanes.
  • Earthquakes – The US currently averages 4 earthquakes each year that register over 5.5 on the Richter Scale. While many earthquakes occur in California and Alaska, several major and numerous minor quakes have occurred in the midwestern and eastern part of the country, as well as Canada. 
  • Thunderstorms – The US experiences 100,000 thunderstorms each year in the US, and 10% of those are classified as severe. Rainfall from these storms can cause flash flooding, killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. At any given moment, there are approximately 2,000 thunderstorms in progress globally. The greatest severe threats in the US extend from Texas to southern Minnesota, but no place in the US is completely safe from severe weather.
  • Wildfires – Wildfires are known for their size and speed of ignition. The western part of the country experiences disastrous wildfires each year, such as the Yarnell Hill Fire in Prescott, AZ in 2013, where 19 firefighters died. The 2018 wildfire season in California was the deadliest on record, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres.
  • Winter Weather – This classification includes ice storms, blizzards, high winds, and blinding snow. The Blizzard of 2011, also called the 2011 Ground Hog Day Blizzard, the affected area from New Mexico and northern Texas, to New England and Eastern Canada. Estimated damages topped $1.8 billion dollars and 36 people lost their lives.
  • Tornadoes – The US is the world leader in tornado activity. We have experienced as many as 80 per month during tornado season. While most tornadoes have wind speeds less that 110/miles per hour, winds can exceed more than 300 mph. Generally, the storms are about 250 feed in diameter but can be more than two miles in diameter.
  • Volcanoes – The US has 169 volcanoes that are considered active, 55 of which are designated as serious threats, 18 of which are very high threats. Geographic locations include Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and California. In 1980, Mount St. Helens eruption killed 57 people. The volcano’s last eruption occurred from 2004-2008. Arizona has 3 volcanoes: Sunset Crater, San Francisco Volcanic Field, and Uinkaret. Nevada has 4 volcanoes: Lunar Crater, Soda Lakes, Steamboat Springs, and Timber Mountain.
  • Hurricanes – The US has experienced 15-20 major hurricanes in the last decade. Generally the US experiences close to 7 hurricanes every four years. The five deadliest were:  The Cheniere Caminada Hurricane in 1893 killing an estimated 2,000 people in Louisiana; The Okeechobee Hurricane in 1928in which 2,500 – 3,000 people died from Puerto Rico to Florida; The Great Galveston Storm in 1900 where 8,000 – 12,000 people died; Hurricane Maria in 2017 which resulted in $91.61 billion in damages mostly in Puerto Rico. Totally deaths throughout the Caribbean were 3,057 of which 2,975 were from Puerto Rico.  Hurricane Katrina in 2005 resulted in 1,833 people dying and property damage and economic impact exceeding $150 billion.

Source: Wikipedia, GlobalChange.gov, World Vision, VolcanoDiscovery.com, Businessinsider.com, nssl.noaa.gov

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Author: Billie K. Fidlin

Billie K. Fidlin is the Director of Outreach & Justice for the Desert Southwest Conference. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University and attended Claremont School of Theology for religious studies. Ms. Fidlin currently serves as the President of the Arizona Faith Network in her second term. She is President & Founder of Whisper n Thunder Inc., and sits on various boards including the Justa Center and the Phoenix Police Department's Faith Advisory Council. Her awards include the UM Foundation for Evangelism 2004 Distinguished Evangelist; 2016 Church Women United / United Nations Human Rights Award; 2018 Servant Leader Award AZ Faith Network; 2022 Southern Poverty Law Center Certificate of Recognition; and 2022-23 Class of Who's Who in America.
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