Response organizations prepare for Bonnie

BY GEORGE PIPER | NORTH CAROLINA | August 25, 1998


As more than 500,000 residents and visitors along the North and South

Carolina coast were ordered inland Tuesday, disaster response organizations

were preparing to serve thousands of disaster survivors.

The massive hurricane is already spreading rain along the coast and

forecasters were concerned late Tuesday that the 350-mile wide storm may

strengthen further before slamming into the coast early Wednesday. It is

currently a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 115 mph and gusts

of 140 mph.

While hurricane warnings stretched from Murrells Inlet, SC, to

Chincoteague, VA., Tuesday, Adventist Community Services (ACS) mobilized

management and volunteer personnel in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland

and West Virginia.

ACS is preparing to distribute donated goods to potentially thousands of

hurricane survivors. The organization primarily handles donated goods

during early phases of disaster relief efforts.

Larry Buckner, national disaster coordinator for the Adventists disaster

response program, has been talking to state disaster response and emergency

coordinators since Friday. He and 15 other ACS officials are coordinating a

multi-agency warehousewhere donations can be received and distributed.

Armed with food, clothing and toiletries, the Adventists' staff and

volunteers supply survivors with basic needs right away before

reinforcements of donated goods begin arriving to designated warehouses for

distribution.

"The first 48 hours is the most crucial," Mike Ortel, the North Carolina

Conference of Seventh Day Adventists disaster coordinator said from his

office in Charlotte, N.C. "Before all that stuff comes in, we'll be making

(relief) assessments and giving out the items we bring with us."

Other disaster response organizations are also making final preparations.

The Emergency Response Office of Church World Service (CWS) has

assembled a new Hurricane Season Task Force to help establish a

distribution system for equipment and supplies and pre-position needed

supplies, including health kits, cleanup kits and electric generators.

Officials from the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Disaster

Assistance have also been making plans for assistance.

Preparing for any eventuality, many churches along the North Carolina

coast are on alert, said the Rev. Jerry Jackson, a conference disaster

coordinator for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist

Church, and minister of Northwoods United Methodist Church in

Jacksonsville, N.C. The church's emergency kitchen is also being prepared.

Local interfaith groups along the North Carolina coast are also getting

ready for Bonnie.

The Hatteras (N.C.) Interfaith Council, organized during Hurricane Emily

in 1993, is identifying churches, community centers and fire stations as

possible relief shelters, said the Rev. James Huskins, the council's

director and North Carolina United Methodist Conference disaster team

member.

A focal point for relief efforts around Hatteras Island, N.C., the

council is boosting its communications' capability to aid potential

response efforts. Four of the council's 13 pastors have 60-watt, low

frequency radios in their vehicles, and Huskins hopes to eventually equip

all members with such devices. Huskins also relies on local ham radio

operators during severe storms.

Local interfaith groups will be important in effective community

disaster response, says Dennis Levin, president of North Carolina Interfaith Disaster Response (NCIDR) and a

Church World Service (CWS) consultant.

"These organizations got going under (hurricanes) Bertha and Fran," he

says. "Those experiences will be instrumental in getting mainline

interfaiths to operate through local groups."

In Charleston, S.C., Al Aiken of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance says

he is working to get relief supplies ready and is working with American Red

Cross officials to set up potential emergency operations centers. Aiken is

also networking with others who have worked in past hurricane relief

efforts.

"We have a group of people stationed around this area that have had

experience and we just call on these people," he says. "Everything is kind

of on hold here. We're just waiting to see what this thing will do."

Atlantic Ocean rip tides from Bonnie have already been blamed for three

deaths along the coast on Sunday and Monday.

The National Hurricane Center said Bonnie continues to be a Category 3

storm, packing winds of 111-130 miles per hour with a potential storm surge

of 9 feet to 12 feet above normal.

Bonnie is the second of four Atlantic storms of the 1998 season.

Tropical Storm Alex dissipated over open water earlier this month while

Tropical Storm Charley landed in Texas over the weekend.

Hurricane Danielle, the fourth Atlantic storm continued to strengthen

Tuesday about 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It is expected to

continue to grow in size.

Posted August 25, 1998


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