Poet T.S. Eliot may have called April the “cruellest month,” yet March 2016 has been anything but kind to southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana as severe storms spawned tornadoes and flooding. President Obama declared a major disaster for flooding in Jasper, Newton and Orange counties as of March 19, the Associated Press reported.
With the Sabine River bordering Texas and Louisiana suffering its worst flooding since 1884, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested the federal declaration on March 18. Abbott said more counties may be added, the Associated Press stated.
Even before the federal declaration, SBTC Disaster Relief teams were among many first responders deploying teams to assist victims.
“Our churches, disaster relief units and volunteers continue to respond to the needs of their communities. These past couple of weeks our tasks have been focused on feeding and shelter care. On Monday [March 21] mud-out operations will begin as water continues to recede in southeast Texas,” said Scottie Stice, SBTC Director of Disaster Relief.
Even as current SBTC DR volunteers are in the field, others are being trained. On Sunday, March 20, 117 attended Phase 1 (yellow hat) training at Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City.
“The training went very well with several churches represented. We look forward to working with these churches as we serve the needs of the flood victims of southeast Texas,” Stice said.
Southeast Texas flooding
Stice said that mud-out operations in Burkeville and Deweyville were scheduled to start March 21 and would include Orange as soon as water recedes sufficiently there.
In preparation for southeast Texas operations, SBTC shower units have been set up to support church shelters and volunteers at First Baptist Church and Call Junction Baptist Church in Kirbyville, Hartburg Baptist Church in Orange, and Burkeville Baptist Church. A feeding unit is operating out of First Baptist Church in Vidor.
A Missouri DR laundry unit has also been deployed to Vidor to support SBTC feeding and mud-out operations. An SBTC laundry unit that had been deployed to assist flood victims in Leesville, La., has arrived at First Baptist Church in Mauriceville to support feeding and mud-out operations.
Additionally, an SBTC incident management team (IMT) will set up March 21 at FBC Mauriceville, where their efforts will also be assisted by an SBTC shower unit. A DR command unit from Missouri arrived Sunday to help coordinate mud-out operations from FBC Mauriceville. Volunteers from Missouri are also arriving to supplement SBTC teams.
Caddo Lake flood
Stice confirmed that assessors have been working the MARC (Multi Agency Resource Center) at Karnack. More than 30 ministry requests have been received and mud-out operations will also begin March 21.
Kilgore flash flood
SBTC white hat or incident leader Paul Easter and team were housed at Forest Home Baptist Church, Kilgore, where mud-out operations concluded on March 19.
Malakoff tornado and wind event
Assessors, chaplains, shower unit volunteers and recovery teams headed by SBTC unit director Garry McDugle have assisted victims with downed trees in Malakoff after the March 8 tornado.
McDugle posted on Facebook the story of Anna, an elderly woman who was in the back part of her home when a tornado ripped through the east Texas town of Malakoff. She hid in a bathtub. Her husband was in the other end of the house, McDugle stated.
“Anna said she kept calling out to Jesus that she wasn’t ready to go,” McDugle said. “She told me she wanted to meet Him in the air someday, but not this way.” During the tornado, as Anna and her husband prayed, a huge tree crashed upon the house, missing the sections where the couple crouched.
“Anna told me she began to feel the bathtub move upward and she felt herself going up,” McDugle added. “She cried out to Jesus and the storm passed. When she realized what happened, she knew then that Jesus was there the whole time.”