Damage unbearable in NC

BY GEORGE PIPER | NORTH CAROLINA | September 20, 1999


NORTH CAROLINA (Sept. 20, 1999) -- When Hurricane Floyd felled three trees on a woman's roof in Goldsboro, she received a $1,200 estimate to remove them. Her insurance policy covered only $500, and the out-of-pocket costs were too much for her to bear.

The Rev. Charles Moseley knows this woman, like other older members of his St. Luke's United Methodist Church congregation, is going to need help recovering from Hurricane Floyd's wrath. He and church leaders met Sunday to formulate plans to assist St. Luke's families in similar predicaments.

This scenario likely to replay itself countless times across eastern North Carolina as residents face the worst flooding ever. It's been five days since Hurricane Floyd drenched the state with torrential rains, and some communities already under water are bracing for continued high water as rivers have yet to crest. More rain may fall as Tropical Storm Harvey moves north from the Gulf of Mexico.

The situation is frustrating for faith-based disaster relief groups who want to help. Resources are being mobilized for relief efforts, but downed phone lines and washed-out roads make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a handle on a community's needs, said Charlie Moeller, a Church World Service (CWS) disaster resource facilitator.

"The frustration is not knowing what's happening and what are the needs," he said. "That's the real barrier in getting into the recovery."

That has precluded faith-based groups from preparing aid. CWS issued a $100,000 appeal. The United Methodist Committee on Relief issued a $40,000 appeal and is sending cleanup kits to North Carolina this week, Moseley said.

Until then, Moeller said local churches should be taking care of their own congregations' needs as well as looking at needs within the wider community.

That's what Moseley is attempting to do in Goldsboro. He's helped distribute supplies that arrived to the local American Red Cross office. He also expects the United Church Ministries of Wayne County, a collection of 100 churches that respond to short-term crises, to assume a larger role as relief and recovery progresses.

When that commences, though, is up to the Neuse River, which already reached 1929 record flood levels and will crest in Goldsboro late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Some St. Luke's families have been out of town and unable to return since Floyd struck, and Moseley fears that a few homes may be total losses.

Health is another concern for the state's residents. Tap water is unsafe in many communities, and floodwaters tend to carry dangerous bacteria. Decaying carcasses of farm animals poses a health threat as well, especially in Goldsboro, where a local turkey processing plant may have up to 1 million dead fowl.

St. Luke's postponed its annual homecoming services this weekend, and Moseley instead told the congregation on Sunday about Paul's faith during a storm and subsequent shipwreck while on his way to Rome. "We are people of faith, and we are squarely able to face whatever comes our way because our God is with us," he said.

Good weather in the post-Floyd days helped to ease spirits. Beautiful blue skies since Wednesday starkly contrasted with mud-stained patches of ground, and people are taking a friendlier attitude toward each other during the crisis, Moseley said.

Still, Moseley said there is optimistic apprehension in Goldsboro as people wait to see what the coming week brings. Some residents were without power until 6 p.m. Sunday, and Moseley's music director, who lives eight miles from the church in rural Wayne County, tried several routes to make it to Sunday services before giving up.

"A lot of those folks are cut off by the rising flood water," he said. "We are still feeling like we're in the middle of this disaster."

Posted Sept. 20, 1999


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