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Isidore hits Louisiana

BY RACHEL CLARK | NEW ORLEANS, Louis. | September 26, 2002

"Nobody wants a major event because that means human misery."

—Mary Sutton

Tropical Storm Isidore blew ashore in Louisiana Thursday, bringing winds just under hurricane force. The storm could drop 20 inches of rain before it's through battering the coastline.

Emergency service personnel in Louisiana were doing a damage assessment early Thursday morning.

"We had to wait for daylight and for the wind and rain conditions to die down," said Mary Sutton, chair of the Louisiana Voluntary Organiztaions Active in Disaster (VOAD). "It will give us some kind of idea where geographically people have been impacted."

Tornado warnings and flood watches were posted from the Louisiana coast to the Florida panhandle. Isidore is expected to weaken as it tracks northward over land. The tropical storm warning in place along the coast remains in effect and the hurricane watch has been cancelled. A tornado touched down in Lafourche Parish early Thursday but there were no reports of extensive damage.

"A tornado watch remains in place across parts of the Gulf Coast this morning and the threat for isolated tornadoes will continue to exist today," Tom Hazelwood of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. "Flood watches are in effect from the Gulf Coast into the Northeast. Heavy surf will continue to batter the coast this morning and will slowly subside throughout the day."

In suburan New Orleans, floodwater has overflowed the sewer system, sending contaminated water into some homes. More than 2,000 people reported to 34 shelters in Louisiana, according to Louisiana emergency management.

"It didn't come in as a major hurricane, for which we are exceedingly grateful," Sutton said. "It's a rain event, but no doubt it could have been a whole lot worse.

The National Guard was assisting with evacuations in Alabama and Mississippi.

Isidore made U.S. landfall after thrashing Cuba and Mexico. Though many disaster responders felt they dodged the bullet of the larger storm, they were still concerned over heavy rainfall.

"Nobody wants a major event because that means human misery," said Sutton. "But on the other hand, all of the state emergency agencies and volunteer agencies are prepared. This is what we're here for."

National Weather Service forecasters said these rains could cause “life-threatening” flooding in southern states. Tuesday evening, Mississippi Gov. Ronni Musgrove declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Isidore’s arrival. In Alabama, Gov. Don Siegelman activated the state’s emergency management agency to prepare for the storm.

“There is significant rain, but there doesn’t appear it will turn into a hurricane. There have been some evacuations of low-lying areas,” said Sutton. “Particularly those like Grand Isle, which is on the tip of Louisiana that juts out into the gulf.”

"Everyone's pretty calm," added Capt. Dan Ford, president of the Texas VOAD and commanding officer of The Salvation Army of Beaumont. "They're reviewing and understanding evacuation plans, and what to do to get out."

A Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) crew of 21 skilled volunteers was helping Houston residents recover from last year's Tropical Storm Allison.

"We have a crew change at the end of the week," said Clarence VanDike of CRWRC. "So there are a bunch of people coming down from other parts of the country who are concerned about going into a hurricane."

VanDike said the group has also been concerned that some Houston residents have forgotten that their neighbors are still suffering from Allison's wrath. So they helped rebuild five flooded-out homes.

"Some think it's not a big deal," he said. "But boy, it is to the five families going back into their homes for the first time in five years."

Near the coast of Texas, the Rev. Alan Coe of the Cross United Church of Christ said UCC volunteers are “taking the usual precautions." Coe lives east of San Antonio. More rain, he said, would hurt an already flood-soaked region.

"The ground is pretty well saturated," he said. "And people are still out of their homes and rebuilding, so they don't need to see a hurricane."

The Texas Baptist Men are on alert and are also preparing to mobilize. This group specializes in mass feeding, and they coordinate their efforts with The Salvation Army and American Red Cross. When fully operational, the group can provide up to 30,000 meals a day to emergency service personnel and disaster survivors.

The Texas Baptist Men recently added shower trailers to their convoys. On the side of the trailers is Proverbs 11:25: "He who refreshes others, will himself be refreshed."

The trailers provide a safe and sanitary way for emergency personnel workers and survivors of disasters to clean up. Firefighters, police officers and other rescue personnel used shower trailers at the World Trade Center, said Jim Leak, director of missions for the Hill Country Baptist Association in Texas.

"Rescue workers would not leave the pile because they were looking for friends -- they would work and sleep right there," Leak said. "At the shower trailers, they were able to take a hot shower, get some rest and get back to work again."

According to Leak, providing, food and showers is an act of love.

"We're loving others by providing whatever we can to make people feel comfortable. On our shower trailer we have another scripture that says we love because He first loved us," Leak said. "The reason people help out is because they believe the great commission is that."

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More links on Hurricanes


Related Links:

Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief News Web site

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee Web site

Alabama Emergency Management Agency

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency

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