CORPUS CHRISTI—As residents along the Texas Gulf Coast brace for Hurricane Harvey, SBTC churches and disaster relief units stand ready to assist victims.
Hurricane Harvey strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane overnight Thursday and continued to intensify Friday morning, the National Weather Service reported, confirming that Harvey is forecast to be a Category 3 storm expected to make landfall Friday night along the middle Texas coast.
In addition to the initial impact, a “life threatening storm surge inundation” is possible, and a “slow drift” of the storm may result in severe flooding south of the Interstate 10 corridor, the National Weather Service stated.
Churches in the storm surge area have encouraged their members to evacuate or take proper precautions. Most coastal churches have cancelled Sunday services.
“We talked everybody we could into leaving. A few of our families did decide to stay. We checked on some widows and others to see if we could help boarding up houses,” said Scott MacDonald, pastor of Corpus Christi Community Church which meets in an area school.
“We encouraged members to help their neighbors and check on those around them, making sure they had enough water and food,” MacDonald said, adding that many from the church had evacuated but others were determined to ride out the storm at home.
David Loyola, SBTC field ministry strategist for South Texas, started calling area churches earlier this week. Loyola confirmed that many people had evacuated Corpus Christi, including his son who is an ER doctor and was prepared to stay at the hospital but was told to leave.
“We are staying in contact with pastors and waiting to see what we can do to help,” Loyola said.
Likewise, Coastal Bend field ministry strategist Mitch Kolenovsky confirmed he had contacted churches in the region. Churches in Portland, Port O’Connor, Rockport and Freeport are not open today. Most have canceled Sunday services, he said.
“Six churches between Corpus and Galveston are already lined up to host disaster relief units as they are deployed,” Kolenovsky added. While some of these churches are directly in the storm’s forecast path and their facilities may suffer damage, they have offered their parking lots for staging.
Inland churches are also preparing for possible flooding, said Kolenovsky. “Even those as far north as the Katy area and Seguin are making preparation to assist however possible with people moving through the area.”
Churches outside the storm surge area such as Parkway Baptist Church in Victoria and Bay Area Fellowship in League City have offered their facilities for disaster relief, Kolenovsky said.
Sportsman’s Church in Victoria has a facility prepared for feeding units and recovery teams that will be coming to the area after the storm. “We want to be available to folks who are going to be serving others,” shared Pastor Glen Dry.
In his church’s Facebook post, Dry urged residents to make necessary precautions. “Take time to prepare your heart and mind as well—not just the physical. Stay calm and rest knowing God has this even in the midst of the storm.”
Just over an hour southwest of Corpus Christi, First Baptist Church of Premont has opened its doors to members of the church and community who do not feel safe remaining at home.
Pastor Rick Rice said he doesn’t anticipate the storm tracking their direction, but knows that rain could be a problem. “Always when a hurricane comes this way, we open up our fellowship hall,” he said.
David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church, 25 miles north of Galveston, said his church is also prepared to help.
“Our church has been used as a shelter in the past. Nobody has contacted us from Red Cross about having our church available. Right now we are as in the dark as anybody. We don’t know where or when it is going to hit,” Fannin said.
“We are in a wait and see [posture]. We are ready to help. We just don’t know in terms of what or when,” Fannin said, adding, “Most of the people in our church have been through this before. If people need a place to stay, we will open the doors.”
Yoli Nieto Trujillo, longtime Corpus resident and retired Corpus policeman, said she was busy boarding windows and placing sandbags in doorways while her husband, a Port of Corpus Christi policeman, had reported for duty, instructed to pack for three days. Trujillo, who lives on the south side of Corpus, said she plans to stay with a neighbor since the storm is hitting at night.
Trujillo’s advice? “Stay off the streets. Don’t go to to South Padre to see the waves before the storm hits.”
Meanwhile, SBTC DR units are preparing to deploy, issuing a call out to volunteers across Texas.
“SBTC Disaster Relief has pledged to help Texans recover from the aftermath of the hurricane. Feeding units are capable of preparing up to 80,000 meals a day if needed. Recovery units stand ready to help remove fallen tree limbs, clear roadways and tarp homes. Other units are poised to provide showers for survivors and volunteers, purify water, assess needs of homeowners and provide childcare. Chaplain teams are prepared to provide spiritual counseling,” said Wally Leyerle, SBTC DR associate.
With additional reporting by Tammi Reed Ledbetter