David Earley, Brent Bany and Billy Williams rip up sodden flooring.
Before the flood waters prompted by 20-24 inches of rain receded in Windsor North Carolina Baptists were on site assessing damage and beginning the arduous mercy work of tearing out wet wood, carpet, wallboard and insulation.
Water overflowing the banks of the Cashie River closed roads around the small northeastern town until Oct. 5. That day 46 volunteers – including 13 from Rocky Hock Baptist Church – were tackling tear out jobs around town, especially in a section north of town that sat low where the river curved around them like a horseshoe. Twelve had spent the previous night in the church.
Billy Layton and his wife, Ann, coordinated volunteers onsite, from a table in the Cashie Baptist Church fellowship hall, where a breeze from big fans and open doors dried damp carpet. Volunteers worked their way through 32 job orders collected from assessment teams.
Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers worked on a similar number of flooded houses in an area a few blocks away.
Water rose as high as 4 feet in some houses, although the majority of those damaged saw water more like 18 inches high. That’s more than enough to force occupants to rip out all the flooring down to the subfloor, and cut off the wallboard several inches above the wet line. Once houses are cleared of ruined furniture and flooring, they are sprayed with disinfectant and allowed to dry before rebuild can begin.
N.C. Baptist Men, which is coordinating the disaster response, is unsure at this time whether or not they will be involved in the rebuild.
After N.C. Baptist Men were alerted to standby for Tropical Storm Nicole’s aftermath, they relaxed when Nicole blew past with little or no wind damage. “We forgot about the flooding,” Layton said. “The rain storm is what got us.”
The rain poured relentlessly, soaking the area with nearly two feet of rain and sending the Cashie River over its banks. The river’s source is just north of Windsor, which flooded heavily in 1999 during Hurricane Floyd.
Residents were told that Floyd was a 500-year storm, so bad that some said if it happens again, they’re leaving. But no one was talking about leaving just 11 years later when the water rose again in just two hours once it crested the banks.
Layton found a very cooperative group of city workers, willing to pitch in and do whatever is necessary to help both residents and N.C. Baptist Men.
Michael Labate, youth minister at Galatia Baptist Church in Seaboard, was doing chaplain work and said Windsor’s residents were in “surprisingly good spirits.” Their attitude seemed to be, “With help, we know we can survive this.”
Rachel Bazemore, 84, endured the Floyd flood in 1999, lost her husband in 2004, suffered a house fire in 2006 and now the flood. “She’s just looking up,” Labate said.
Those who were down found emotional relief through the interaction of volunteers who prodded and joked with each other as they tackled difficult tasks.
David Earley, who was supervising the crews in the neighborhood where Baptist men concentrated, said he is hooked on disaster relief and goes “every chance I get.”
“It’s my opportunity to show God’s love,” said Earley, from Merry Hill Baptist Church. He just returned from Kentucky, where he helped a family that had nothing. A girl and her baby lived in a trailer behind her parents and the sum total of her furnishings was a mattress.
Freddie Roberson from Memorial Baptist Church in Williamston was enjoying his first days as a retiree. The retired optometrist said he gets “more enjoyment doing something for someone else than doing something for pay.” Although he did admit he’ll have to “turn down my wanter a little bit.”
Greg Riggs from Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in Durham is the volunteer leader of the project, coordinating both Windsor and New Bern efforts. He said it is “incredible” that so many people are willing to drop what they’re doing and serve others.
“It never ceases to amaze me,” he said. “Most of all they come to share Christ with people.”
Riggs was finishing assessments in New Bern on Thursday and said they had about 60 work orders and expected to “add to that daily.”
The effort is being coordinated out of First Baptist Church, New Bern, at 239 Middle Street. Riggs expected a good volunteer response over the weekend.
How long will Baptist Men be on the job?
“Until we finish,” said Layton.