N.C. Baptists are preparing to help people in Kentucky recover from a major ice storm that left 700,000 homes and businesses without power.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear activated all 4,600 National Guard troops and asked for federal aid in response to what he called the worst natural disaster in the state’s history. Repairs to Kentucky’s electrical grid and other cleanup costs are expected to exceed $45 million.
At least 16 storm-related deaths had been confirmed in Kentucky by Feb. 2, and dozens more were suspected in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio after the storm system moved through a major portion of the country early last week.
Gaylon Moss, who coordinates disaster relief for N.C. Baptist Men, sent an e-mail asking for volunteers to help people in Stanford, Ky., recover from the storm. Some N.C. Baptists had already inquired about going before the request, he said.
“I think we’ll have a good response,” he said.
Gary Holland, who served as a rebuilding coordinator for N.C. Baptist disaster relief efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, was expected to arrive in Kentucky by the evening of Feb. 3, Moss said. Holland lives in Franklin, which is only about four hours from the disaster relief site in Kentucky.
A chainsaw team from Durham is leaving Feb. 5, according to Moss. Other teams will follow.
“A lot of things are still developing,” Moss said. “We’re just getting started.”
Emergency officials said 92 of Kentucky’s 120 counties had declared emergencies, and more than 400,000 people remained without power over the weekend. National Guard troops were going door to door in some parts of the state, tagging with green tape those homes where people had sufficient supplies and tagging with red tape those in need of assistance.
The mayor of Mayfield, in western Kentucky, said it could take as long as two months for power to be restored to the entire county. And in Paducah, a city of about 25,000, a nighttime curfew was imposed Saturday.
Chainsaw teams from the Tennessee Baptist Convention have been assigned to Princeton, Cunningham, Madisonville, Siloam and Hancock, Ky., the North American Mission Board reported. A shower unit from Tennessee was activated at a shelter in Hancock.
The Alabama Baptist State Convention, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, and the Georgia Baptist Convention were also sending chainsaw teams to assist with cleanup efforts in Kentucky.
The Associated Press reported that volunteers from New Haven Baptist Church in Albany, La., were passing out free kerosene, batteries, bottled water and other items to local residents from a staging area at New Horizons Baptist Church in Glendale, Ky. AP said the Louisiana residents were returning a favor from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the Kentucky church volunteered to help them.
Arkansas, the second hardest-hit state, requested shower units and chainsaw teams from other states as 350,000 customers were without power and 48 counties were declared federal disaster areas. Five feeding units were activated for Harrison, Mountain Home, Corning, Jonesboro, Paragould and Fayetteville, Ark. By Feb. 2, 300-plus volunteers had served more than 17,000 meals, and several churches had opened as shelters.
About 15 chainsaw teams were deployed in Arkansas, including one from the Kansas/Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists working in Berryville and some from the Louisiana Baptist Convention based at First Baptist Church in Springdale. Louisiana also sent shower trailers to First Baptist Church in Paragould and East Side Baptist Church in Mountain Home, NAMB reported.
Shower units also were setting up at the community center in Corning and at First Baptist Paragould. A Kansas/Nebraska shower unit was en route to Freeman Heights Baptist Church in Berryville.
Chainsaw teams in Missouri and Oklahoma were helping residents recover within their states, and several Tennessee teams were working in Missouri. In Illinois, 15 chainsaw teams from the Illinois Baptist State Association have been activated, and in Ohio, a feeding unit from the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio was operating in the southern part of the state, the North American Mission Board said.