Floods may be Bonnie legacy

BY GEORGE PIPER | NORTH CAROLINA | August 27, 1998


As the eye of Hurricane Bonnie finally passed overhead after hours

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

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 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 members were among the 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 10,000 people

stayed in area 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.

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

wing of a community hospital near Wilmington Wednesday, forcing an

evacuation of some of its patients.

After stalling over the Carolinas for nearly 24 hours, Bonnie continued

to move very slowly to the Northeast Thursday morning. By then the

hurricane had lost some of its punch with sustained winds of just 85 mph,

down 20 mph from when it hit landfall. Forecasters say the storm will

further weaken as it stays over land Thursday.

Although weakening, Bonnie is still 400-miles wide and due to its slow

movement is drenching North Carolina with more than 20-inches of rain that

may produce significant flooding 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."

Officials from Lutheran Disaster Response expect to arrive 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.

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

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

said, "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 from 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."

Updated August 27, 1998


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