SBTC DR aids windstorm victims in Panhandle and East Texas, deploys to Mississippi and Tennessee

BORGER and KILGORE—Two Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief chainsaw units deployed to assist victims of severe windstorms that swept through East Texas and the Texas Panhandle in mid-March. Work wrapped up Mon., Mar. 18, in Borger and was expected to continue at least through Mar. 22 in Kilgore.

Phil Williams led a team of seven from First Baptist Borger who responded to requests for help with downed trees from Borger residents, two of whom were widows.

Deploying near home was a new experience for Borger volunteers, who have ventured to assist victims of disasters in Houston, Hawaii, Fort Worth and Tennessee since the unit’s founding in 2016.

“You get even a more blessed feeling to be able to help your neighbors, to be able to share the gospel and show the love of God,” Williams told the TEXAN.

Williams said winds of up to 85 miles per hour were reported in the Borger area Mar. 13. “We were real fortunate. The damage was minimal compared to what it could have been,” he said.

Mrs. Micca Pyrtle returned home from visiting relatives in the Midland-Odessa area only to find a 30-foot tree in her backyard blown down. The tree took out the power lines and pulled the electric box off Pyrtle’s house.

“It was stressful enough for her just traveling with 18-wheelers blowing over on I-27 from Lubbock, but to come home to no electricity was frightening,” said Angie Mitchell, SBTC DR volunteer from Borger. Power company representatives told Pyrtle the tree would have to be removed before the power could be restored. The tree trimming service she called proved too costly and offered no guarantees regarding when the work could be performed.

The widow was desperate.

“Someone told her about us,” Mitchell said. “I went by to assess the damage and told her we would do it for no charge as soon as we finished cutting down three trees for another widow.”

SBTC DR volunteers reported to Pyrtle’s house as soon as they finished removing three 40-foot trees that wind had pushed to the front of the home of Mrs. Adelaid Kelly.

Considering Borger doesn’t have that many trees, most of the wind damage involved the loss of shingles and metal roofs, but the damage from downed trees still proved surprising, Williams said. Of Kelly’s home, Williams said the team prevented a “domino effect” of three large trees falling upon her roof.

Pyrtle approached Mitchell in tears as the team completed work on her home and prepared to leave.

“There are no words to express my thanks,” Pyrtle told Mitchell. “It doesn’t look like there was a tree there.”

“I her that we pursue excellence,” Mitchell replied. “One of the definitions of the glory of God is ‘his Excellence’ and that is why we do that.”

Seven SBTC DR volunteers from East New Hope Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant also assisted widows and other residents in Kilgore after 60-70 mile per hour straight line winds cut a swath of destruction on Mar. 14.

“We have cut a lot of trees,” said DR team leader Paul Easter.

Of the victims helped thus far, three were widows, all of whom attend church in Kilgore.

“We took a tree off one’s garage. It had crushed her pickup inside. Another house had at least four big trees down,” Easter said.

The veteran volunteer has been doing DR work for nearly 14 years, including making several trips overseas to Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua and Hawaii.

“We pray with everyone we help, before we start and when we leave,” Easter said of his team’s spiritual emphasis during times of disaster.

While Easter’s crew is due to leave the Kilgore area at the end of the week, SBTC DR is prepared to send a replacement team if jobs remain, Daniel White, DR task force member confirmed.

Meanwhile, a team from First Baptist Bellville led by Mike Phillips has returned from Mississippi and another from First Baptist Pflugerville led by David Dean has deployed to Powell, Tenn., in Knox County. Both teams deployed to assist flood victims in the Southeast, White said.

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