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Floods may follow hurricane damage

BY GEORGE PIPER | NORTH CAROLINA | August 26, 1998

Hurricane Bonnie roared ashore near Cape Fear, N.C., bringing its 115

mph winds, 12-foot waves and potential storm surges of 9 to 11 feet.

But as the eye of the hurricane finally passed overhead after nine hours

of constant wind and rain, the Rev. Tom Bovender was breathing an initial

sigh of relief from his Carolina Beach, N.C., home.

The pastor of Seaside Chapel, a non-denominational evangelical church

located on Paradise Island between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic

Ocean about 17 miles south of Wilmington, N.C., lacked electricity and had

already ventured out to retrieve aluminum siding that Bonnie ripped from

his house. But much of Carolina Beach and the 10 or so Seaside Chapel

members taking refuge inside the church withstood the storm's initial blast

with little damage and lots of prayer.

"You can't imagine what it's like until you've been in one," Bovender

said of waiting through a hurricane. "To have winds 100 miles an hour for hour after hour, that even scares the ones with the most faith." Seaside memb

ers were among a few Pleasure Island residents who elected to stay behind

despite a mandatory evacuation earlier this week that encouraged nearly

half a million people to leave the Carolina coast. More than 20,000 people

stayed in emergency shelters Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

While some parts of southeastern North Carolina reported little serious

damage during the storm's first hours, not all of the area has been as

fortunate. "We've had terrific damage," Ben Taylor of the North Carolina

emergency management agency said Wednesday night.

The nearly constant winds in excess of 100 mph tore the roof off a

community hospital near Wilmington Wednesday, forcing an evacuation of more

than 30 patients.

Many local officials said they were concerned Wednesday night that the

storm had nearly stalled over the North Carolina coast. The slowdown will

mean high winds will continue to batter coastal communities and raises the

specter of serious flooding in addition to more wind damage. More than

20-inches of rain is possible in some areas said a spokesperson for the

National Hurricane Center.

"Everybody's frustrated and fearful," said Charlie Moeller, a Church

World Service (CWS) regional disaster facilitator. "We're all really

concerned what's going on."

National officials from Lutheran Disaster Response expect to be in North

Carolina by Saturday to assess damage amounts and they will meet to decide

what to do as a denomination and in conjunction with the interfaith

community.

The North Carolina Donation hotline (888-786-7601 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

EDT), funded by the state's Division of Emergency Management, is a

clearinghouse for donated goods and services. State officials work with North Carolina Interfaith Disaster Response (NCIDR) to

coordinate donations to the appropriate agencies.

"In past disasters, this toll-free number has enabled us to track all

the offers that have been made and get them to the proper organizations,"

said Dennis Levin, NCIDR president based in Ayden, N.C., and a CWS

consultant. "What happens a lot of times is this will prevent people from

sending inappropriate things into the state."

When making donations, Levin said people should realize their offers

might be more valuable months after a disaster strike. "It sometimes takes

that long for residents to know they're not going to get the assistance

they thought they were going to get," he said

Other toll-free numbers for donations are sponsored the Salvation Army

(800-725-9005), Adventist Community Services (800-253-3000) and United

Methodists (800-554-8583).

Food kitchens and recovery teams from the National American Mission

Board of the Southern Baptist Conference (SBC) are ready for action. The

organization, which is working with the American Red Cross, plans to send

up to 22 mobile feeding teams, three of which are already stationed near

Raleigh, said Mickey Caison, the conference's national disaster relief

director.

After Hurricane Fran in 1996, some 4,000 SBC volunteers travelled to

North Carolina. The potential destruction from Bonnie could easily require

that many people again, Caison noted.

Food kitchens utilize 25 volunteers per day while recovery teams feature

10 to 12 person crews. Besides clearing trees and limbs, recovery personnel

can make temporary repairs and likely would return for rebuilding efforts.

South Carolina and Virginia residents will also receive assistance if

needed, Caison added.

United Methodist churches in western North Carolina are forming work

teams with help from United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to aid in

relief and recovery efforts, said the Rev. Jerry Jackson, conference

disaster coordinator for the Methodist Churches of North Carolina and

minister of Northwoods United Methodist Church

"We're looking at almost two years of (rebuilding) here," he said.

"There's already been a lot of damage on the beach (to vacation homes), but

we're looking at the primary homes first."

Back in Carolina Beach, Bovender likened Bonnie's rage to Fran that also

hit Paradise Island. But reinforced sand dunes and other preparations made

since that disaster appear to have helped minimize damage through the first

half of the storm, he said.

As Seaside Chapel's spiritual leader, Bovender said he felt it was his

duty to stay behind for his people and provide whatever comfort he can

during this powerful natural disaster. He said he believes his tools of

prayer, scripture and compassion are as important as the chain saws and

backhoes that will clean up the disaster.

"You've got to tell them that there are some things that we just don't

have anything to do with, and the weather happens to be one of them," he

said. "so we have to put our faith and trust into some who can, and Christ

is the one person we can put that trust in."

Posted August 26, 1998


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