SC UMVIM ERT to Baton Rouge, Louisiana
September 11-15, 2016
– Billy Robinson – SC UMVIM ERT Coordinator
On August 11, 2016 rain began falling across the southern portion of Louisiana, in which rainfall exceeded 20 inches in multiple parishes causing catastrophic flooding that submerged over 100,000 homes and businesses and killed 13 people. In portions of Baton Rouge and Lafayette accumulations peaked at 31.39 inches, which was more than during Hurricane Katrina and Isaac The National Weather Service rates it a 1-in-1000-year event! Governor John Edwards, called the disaster a “historic, unprecedented flooding event” and declared a state of emergency.
Oh the wonderful, beautiful, loving, extremely exciting and fulfilling joy that comes through serving in the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ! Wow, at the great honor and privilege 14 SC United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Team (UMVIM-ERT) members experienced in their call to serve on a mission of dire need in Baton Rouge, Louisiana from September 11 – 15, 2016.
It took a while for the flood waters to subside in much of the state as it did in SC during our big flood of 2015. First ERT teams were called from throughout the central portion of the US then the overwhelming massive magnitude of the flooding disaster warranted a call out to the southeast.
Upon arrival, seasoned SC ERT member’s first impressions were of previous responses to Mississippi and Louisiana to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike. The devastation seemed to go on forever in the hardest hit areas and most residents continuously made reference to Hurricane Katrina with several stating that the flood aspect of the torrential rain was much worst.
We were housed at St. Andrews UMC located at 17510 Monitor Avenue in Baton Rouge and we received job request through their local coordinator Greg Bonner in conjunction with the UMC Disaster Command for Baton Rouge. The team put in 3 very hard days working in ruff situations dealing with mold, muck out and various forms of debris removal. We cut limbs off 1 home. Completely gutted the water damaged and molded contents of 5 homes, which included tearing out everything from the flooring, sheetrock, insulation, cabinets and yes – even the kitchen sinks. We then sprayed the homes down to help kill and prevent future mold. We also did mold remediation at two other homes and a wide variety of additional aid such as helping people set up living quarters and securing their home and properties so they would be able to safely move back in to a portion of their home while waiting on rebuild for the rest. There is such a massive amount of devastated homes that it will take a long time before many will see rebuild, especially since most did not have flood insurance. The large majority of people in the affected areas also lost heir vehicles in the massive flood.
Physical task is one portion of our goal but the main portion is always centered on helping give the survivors hope, inspiration and new life in Jesus Christ through our actions and compassion. In each home we were able to wonderfully do this as we worked side by side with the survivors and listened as they told their stories of survival, loss, help and emotional depression.
One lady told of how she was told flooding waters were headed her way but she chose not to believe it as it have never done it before in her 30 plus years in her home. Her mind was changed as she saw the waters come up her street so quickly that she as she tried to escape, the ever-rising water flooded out her car and she was forced to retreat into her home along with her pet Dotson. A neighbor later rescued them in her boat. To do so, they had to break down a portion of her wooden fence. After completing her home we also replaced the broken fence so she could bring her pet Dotson home with her into a secured yard and second story room that we helped set up for her to stay in.
Everywhere we went we heard survivor stories and how people were grateful though their homes were devastated and most of their positions destroyed. Some were depressed and desperate for help but most were still holding out hope and looking on the bright side. They were encouraging to us. The people of this recent Louisiana flood will need help and a lot of it for a long period of time. There is a lack of volunteers to help and the need is dire, especially since the large majority had no flood insurance, as many did not live in what was considered a flood plain.
SC ERT members to Baton Rouge were: Team Leader – Billy Robinson & wife Trudy of North, SC, Assistant Leader & Treasurer – Chuck Marshall of Chesnee, Chef – Jill Evans of Salem, Pat Coleman & Cherlynn Hewitt of Boiling Springs, Robert (Bob) Nichols of Campobello, Ed Rothe of Hartsville, Keith Rowland & Joe Kennedy of Summerville; Richard Spencer of Ladson, Hugh Kight of Charleston, George Branham of Gaston and Laima Brunner of Lexington.