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Hurricane recovery requires time, money, relief workers say


By Joretta Purdue*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Bishop Marion Edwards (center, cap) prepares to lead a team of United Methodists and others on a visit to the village of Hatteras, N.C. Hurricane Isabel created an inlet that cut the village off from the rest of Cape Hatteras. Edwards leads the United Methodist Church's Raleigh (N.C.) Area. A UMNS photo by Bill Norton. Photo number 03-309, Accompanies UMNS #458, 9/25/03.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Downed trees and power lines were common in Baltimore and other East Coast cities after Hurricane Isabel. Massive power outages left thousands of people without electricity. A UMNS photo by Melissa Lauber/UMConnection. Photo number 03-311, Accompanies UMNS #458, 9/25/03
WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Isabel will take time, work and money, say United Methodist leaders in the hardest-hit areas.

The storm came ashore Sept. 18 in North Carolina and wreaked havoc along the East Coast. At least 36 people were killed, and President Bush declared North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia disaster areas.

"It's a devastated place," said Bishop Marion Edwards of the church's Raleigh (N.C.) Area, after visiting the village of Hatteras, N.C., by boat Sept. 23. "Many of the homes and businesses have been completely wiped out or moved off their foundations. Some have disappeared into the ocean."

The hurricane created a waterway that cut off the village from the rest of Cape Hatteras. People were without utilities until the state brought generators from the mainland. Water supplies were limited, and many homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged.

The Rev. Charles Moseley, pastor for a three-point charge, was in the village of Hatteras, where one of his churches is located. He told reporters that he was wearing his last clean underwear and had no means of doing laundry, since the village was without water and power.

Another pastor elsewhere on the cape decided she could address that need. The Rev. Susannah Fitch-Slater and members of St. Johns United Methodist Church in Kinnakeet, Va., arranged to do laundry for Hatteras residents. An area of the Hatteras United Methodist Church is designated for dropping off bagged dirty laundry and another area is designated for pickup. The laundry is transported by boat.

The bishop, with North Carolina Conference disaster and mission workers, visited Hatteras on a three-day tour of hard-hit areas. The day before, they were in Swan Quarter, N.C., where Edwards noted that most of the homes and three of the eight United Methodist churches in surrounding Hyde County had been flooded.

Providence United Methodist Church in Swan Quarter had just completed extensive renovation after Hurricane Floyd's flooding in 1999. The congregation had one service in the new sanctuary before Hurricane Isabel struck, flooding the first floor.

"We have a well-organized North Carolina response team in place," Edwards said. He added that the conference learned from Hurricane Fran in 1996 and later Floyd.

Bishop Joe Pennel of the Virginia Area also praised his conference's disaster team.

"We have widespread destruction," he reported Sept. 23. "A lot of it is insurable - that is to say, trees and houses and things of that sort. The people who are suffering the most are people who did not have insurance. The poor are hit the hardest.

"We still have a large number of people without electricity, and water has become the big issue because the water is polluted. People are having to find ways to get water to drink."

A tree, about three feet in diameter, fell across the office used by the Rev. Tommy Herndon, Portsmouth (Va.) District superintendent. He said a crane would remove the tree after the insurance adjuster viewed the destruction. "There were thousands and thousands of trees down," he said.

"We had church (services) at almost all of our churches Sunday," Herndon said. Many of the buildings were dark, so services were held outdoors or in areas with windows.

Sue Robinson in Poquoson, Va., said the two United Methodist churches there had extreme water damage. Trinity United Methodist Church, where she is a secretary, had just completed a $1 million addition and renovation last year. Tabernacle United Methodist, where she worships, had about 6 inches of floodwater in its sanctuary, offices and first-floor classrooms.

"My own home was destroyed by the floodwaters, but the sight of our church really did me in when I went for services on Sunday," she said.

United Methodist Committee on Relief workers are helping conference officials assess the needs of people in areas most affected by the storm. UMCOR is processing emergency grants in response to requests from the North Carolina, Virginia, Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware annual conferences.

The agency is receiving money for the hurricane relief through "Hurricanes 2003," Advance No. 982438. Check donations can be made out to UMCOR, designated for either advance and placed in the offering plates or sent to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit card donors can call (800) 554-8583, and online donations can be made at

Volunteers can contact UMCOR at (800) 918-3100.
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*Purdue is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

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