“This is the first day of the digout in Erie County” from seven feet of snow, said Mike Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York.
Flannery was on the road to a meeting of the Erie County VOAD network (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) as he spoke briefly with Baptist Press about the record snowfall in Buffalo and nearby communities since Nov. 17. Flannery co-chairs the VOAD, which assists the Erie County Emergency Management Office.
“We’re working with churches to dig senior adults out of their houses,” Flannery reported of contacts with Baptist churches and those in other denominations.
And the VOAD is preparing for flooding as the snow melts, Flannery said, adding, “It looks like it’s going to be a long weekend.”
Yet such ministries may yield a starting point for church planting in the affected areas, Flannery noted.
When massive storms dump snow accumulations taller than the average person, all of that snowmelt has to go somewhere as cities across the Northeast face the prospect of flooding and even more snow. The polar blast, generated by a Pacific storm that spread a cold front as it curved north into the Arctic, brought freezing temperatures and/or snowfall to parts of all 48 contiguous states. The New York snowstorm has been responsible for 12 weather-related fatalities to date.
Fritz Wilson, executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), expects state SBDR teams will be handling most of the flood recovery and mud-out work stemming from the storm. The SBDR team at NAMB is closely monitoring developments.
“The potential for flooding is high in the affected areas that have received from five to seven feet of snow,” Wilson said. “The strength of the disaster relief network and the preparation of state organizations like New York and others give us optimism that our state partners will be able to respond to possible flooding.” Wilson said depending on the nature of the event, New York could request assistance from states in the Northeast, but he does not anticipate that it will call for a national response.
The National Weather Service (NWS) had issued multiple lake-effect snow warnings in New York, all set to expire Nov. 21. The NWS issued a flood watch for the most heavily affected areas that will not expire until Nov. 26. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, snowmelt typically generates a 10:1 ratio in water accumulation. In the case of the area around Buffalo, seven feet of melting snow would produce almost a foot of water.
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board; Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)