UPDATE: The Louisiana Annual Conference stands prepared as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches the Gulf coastline, Betty Backstrom, director of communications for the conference, wrote early Tuesday, Aug. 28. “Our local churches are ramping up to assist with any response efforts needed once the storm has passed us. Emergency Response Teams are on the alert. We are so grateful for the many calls from friends throughout our United Methodist Connection offering prayers, concern and help. As with previous storms, damage assessments will begin as soon as possible so that we can share any needs for assistance,” Backstrom said.
In the Louisiana Annual Conference, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey posted a letter on the conference website. She reminded local churches to “have a back-up for membership records” and to have at the ready insurance information and other important papers. Bishop Harvey also reminded churches to contact district superintendents and district emergency response coordinators should the storm cause damage in their communities.
UPDATE: The United Methodist annual conferences along the Gulf Coast are actively bracing for the storm’s arrival.“”During times like these we are reminded of how wonderful it is to be a part of the United Methodist Connection. The Alabama-West Florida Conference has already heard from people around the country offering their help should we need it,” wrote Mary Catherine Phillips, director of communications for the Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference. “Many people are generously offering to help. The Alabama-West Florida Conference covets the connectional prayers at this time and will have a better assessment on Wednesday in regards to what is needed within the bounds of our conference. At that point we will make a determination if supplies and trained teams are needed, or if we will refer this help to another conference in greater need.
UPDATE: The Miami Herald reported Monday, Aug. 27 that the death toll continues to climb in Haiti. The Herald put the toll at 19, with the southeastern part of the island particularly hard hit.
UPDATE: After a conference call Sunday, Aug. 26, the Alabama-West Florida Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster, decided to begin activation of emergency plans and be ready to fully activate by noon Tuesday, Aug. 28 or before.
UPDATE: Volunteers in Mission in Haiti reported during the night on Aug. 25th that they were without electricity and unable to assess flood damage. A Miami Herald story published Sunday, Aug. 26 said there were seven deaths in Haiti and areas of the island still impassable. The National Weather Service tracked Isaac on the afternoon of the 26th nearing the Florida Keys with sustained winds of about 60 miles an hour.
UPDATE: The United Methodist Committee on Relief is connecting with its partners and colleagues in Haiti to assess and respond. Melissa Crutchfield of the International Disaster Response team posted about about 3:30 p.m. EST Saturday that the rain continues to fall.
UPDATE: The Volunteers in Mission team in Haiti reported Friday night that the shifting winds and rain had disrupted internet service but that all was well otherwise. They said they would provide more information as soon as possible.
By United Methodist News Service
As Tropical Storm Isaac swirled through the Caribbean and toward the continental United States, United Methodist relief workers and annual (regional) conferences firmed up plans and put people in place to provide help as needed.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief posted Aug. 23 to its Facebook page — where it will continue to provide storm updates — that in anticipation of Isaac’s arrival, the UMCOR Haiti office will be closed. “Staff are preparing today to respond to anticipated relief needs occasioned by the storm,” the post said. “UMCOR Haiti asks your prayers, especially for the most vulnerable people who since the 2010 earthquake are living in precarious structures.”
As of Jan. 12, 2012, UMCOR had raised nearly $46 million for its long-term recovery work there. Church members in partnership with the Methodist Church of Haiti continue to help with earthquake recovery, and that relationship helps as a big storm approaches.
The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission in Haiti wrote on the afternoon of Aug. 24 on its Facebook page, “So far, we are not seeing any signs of the storm. No rain or heavy winds at this point. The tracking is showing that the storm may be headed south of Port au Prince and will not be here until late this evening.”
The Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference is posting to its Facebook page information to help its churches prepare for the storm. Amelia Fletcher, conference disaster response coordinator, posted an update Aug. 24. It read in part, “The State of Alabama VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) held a call at 1 p.m. today. Although most in this group are not trained meteorologists and storm forecasters, the consensus is that there will be some sort of landfall in or close to our conference. Significant wind and surf could arrive in our conference by Monday evening. Various groups within the targeted areas, such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross, are in alignment and cooperatively preparing for this storm.”
Beth Dean, the Mississippi Annual Conference disaster relief program director for the UMCOR, said Aug. 24 that the conference plans to monitor the storm over the weekend, and, when Isaac’s path is clearer, direct everyone to the conference website for updates and alerts.