Wind damage marks hurricane's end

BY PJ HELLER | LIVE OAK, FL | September 30, 1998


LIVE OAK, FL (Sept. 30, 1998) -- The remnants of Hurricane Georges have

been blamed for several tornadoes including one here early Wednesday

morning that destroyed at least a half-dozen homes and injured five people.

The twisters came as other Gulf Coast residents were getting a first

look at storm and flood damaged homes from Mississippi to Florida.

According Scott Pate, the coordinator of the Suwannee County Emergency

Program, the Live Oak tornado touched down shortly after midnight in this

community, located about 80 milews east of Tallahassee. Earlier, on Tuesday

night a wind storm damaged 12 mobile homes in Baxley.

As damage assessments were made across the region, the National Weather

Service said Wednesday that the Mobile area had actually received less rain

thanoriginally feared. Forecasters had predicted as much as 30-inches might

have fallen, instead they said the total was approximately half of that.

But that statistic was of little comfort to the hundreds of residents

who were driven out of their homes by the storm's fierce winds, torrential

rains and severe flooding. The plight of residents of storm-damaged homes

has become the focus of disaster response organizations.

"I'm sure we'll have a couple of interfaith groups going," said Charles

Moeller, a disaster response facilitator with Church World Service. "I

think some things will come together very well."

Moeller, who travelled to the region Tuesday, hopes to begin meeting

with faith-based organizations this week in an effort to organize an

interfaith response to the disaster. He also planned to travel into

Mississippi and possibly the Florida Panhandle.

Those relief efforts in Mississippi and Alabama are expected to be

spearheaded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the

United Methodist Conference.

"It's still early," he said. "We're trying to assess what's going on and

we'll go from there."

Two Church World Service disaster response consultants based in Arizona

were being sent to Louisiana and Mississippi to help in damage assessments.

Adventist Community Services, meantime, put out an appeal for donations

of personal care items including groceries, blankets, cleaning supplies and

bottled water.

Emergency management personnel in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and

Florida were also assessing damages from the storm, which was downgraded to

a tropical depression. President Clinton, who has declared major disasters

or emergencies in all four state, was scheduled to visit the area as soon

as recovery operations allowed.

Damage estimates along the Gulf Coast could reach into the billions of

dollars. In the Florida Panhandle alone, insurance losses were reported in

excess of $200 million. Georges was blamed for nearly 400 deaths, nearly

all of them in the Caribbean, where it left tens of thousands of people

homeless. Four storm-related deaths were reported along the Gulf Coast.

"In some areas, there's water to rooftops and 4 to 5 feet of water in

many other homes," said George Touart, administrator in Jackson County,

Miss., after inspecting Pascagoula Tuesday. "I've never seen anything like

it in more than 50 years."

"I've been here 20 years and it's the worst rain that I've ever seen,"

said Mark O'Brien of the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center in

Florida.

In Pensacola, Fla., continuing rains and winds were hampering relief

efforts, according to Steve Dick of the Salvation Army.

"Because the water is (still up) in a lot of places, we've been

limited...in being able to provide any more extensive services at this

point," he said.

The organization was maintaining a shelter in the city, which has been

housing about 100 people since last Friday. It also set up a mobile feeding

unit Tuesday morning on Pensacola beach.

"We're just kind of limited in our ability to do anything extensive

until the water starts to recede," Dick said.

He said the shelter would remain open "until people are able to get into

their homes and the water recedes, which could be another couple of days."

"It is still dangerous to travel on our streets and roads," said Linda

Rouse, director of emergency operations for Harrison County, Miss. She

advised residents to remain home or stay in shelters until further notice.

Even so, many roads throughout the Gulf Coast were jammed with traffic

as people who evacuated the area began making their way back home. Several

roads and highways remained closed due to flooding.

In Mississippi, Baptist Disaster Relief managed to bring its new

18-wheeler "feeding station" to Pascagoula. The mobile unit, parked at the

First Baptist Church, is capable of serving 20,000 meals at a time.

Paul Harrell of Baptist Disaster Relief said smaller mobile feeding

units were being sent to Gulfport and Biloxi.

Work teams were also being activated to assist in cleanup efforts, he said.

"We have several teams going in today and a lot of teams going in Friday

and Saturday to help," Harrell said.

Georges made landfall near Biloxi early Monday and stalled about 20

miles north of the city, hammering Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and

Florida. Sustained winds of 105 mph and wind gusts of 175 mph were

reported.

Updated September 30, 1998


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