Hurricane Sandy pounds East Coast

Disaster response volunteers feed evacuees, coordinate plans to help survivors


This radar image provided by shows the massive size of Hurricane Sandy.

Hundreds of thousands of people were ordered away from the Atlantic coastline and schools for millions of students were closed from the Carolinas into New England as emergency and disaster responders prepared for the onslaught of a storm some fear may compare to Hurricane Katrina in scope and damages.

Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center are warning that Hurricane Sandy is "expected to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the Mid-Atlantic Coast including Long Island Sound and the New York harbor." At 11 o'clock the storm was located about 290 miles east of Cape Hatteras and about 470 miles south-southeast of New York City. The hurricane was moving northeast at 14 mph.

Although just a Category One hurricane, hurricane force winds stretch 175-miles from the center and tropical storm winds stretch more than 500 miles. The monster storm is expected to continue northward Sunday night before moving westward, crossing the New Jersey coast Monday as a hurricane or strong tropical storm, moving inland into Pennsylvania and northward into Upper New York State and eventually into Canada.

Hurricane-force winds are predicted along the coast from Chincoteague, Va. to Chatham, MA, including the tidal Potomac, middle and upper Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, New Jersey, New York City area, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Not only were forecasters warning of sustained winds, but the storm surge along the coast may reach historic levels. In addition, heavy rain and snow is predicted in some areas. The size of the storm combined with higher than usual tides accompanying the lunar full moon was suggesting a storm surge as high as 14-feet in some regions.

More than 5,000 scheduled airline flights have been cancelled, Amtrak cancelled service along the Northeast corridor and all commuter trains, subways and buses in most major cities from Washington to New York will not be running Monday. The Federal government and many states and cities planned announced they would be closed except for emergency services.

As emergency officials warned residents to prepare for disruptions in their daily lives, and urged residents of coastal areas to move inland, disaster response organizations were either assisting those who have evacuated or preparing to respond once the storm moves inland.

The Salvation Army began serving meals to evacuees Saturday night at a shelter in Annapolis, MD, and responded to feed about 200 persons at a Salisbury, MD, shelter Sunday. In Baltimore City and County, Salvation Army volunteers were on standby to help feed residents if the power fails. On Saturday night Army volunteers served dinner to about 60 evacuees at a shelter in Norfolk, Va., and in Atlantic County, NJ, the Salvation Army has been providing meals at a shelter. In Red Bank, NJ, the Salvation Army is helping care for evacuated nursing home patients on Sunday and Monday.

Other faith-based disaster response organizations spent the weekend contacting volunteers, members, and partners coordinating rapid and potential long-term response plans and asking for prayers for those impacted.

World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) formerly known as CRWRC, said it has placed its staff and volunteers on standby in the region that is expected to be impacted by the storm. Bill Adams, DRS director, said he was concerned the storm would damage communities that sustained damage from other disasters in 2011.

Adams said his organization is working with partners in New York and New Jersey as well as collaborating with faith-based contacts from both the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church -- both have congregations that could be directly impacted by the storm.

“We are working on plans to contact CRC and RCA congregations that could be damaged by Hurricane Sandy,” Adams said. “We want to be able to make assessments in the affected communities and churches as soon as we can get access to them.”

A spokesperson for The United Methodist Committee on Relief contacted all of the annual conferences in the church's Northeast Jurisdiction in preparation for the storm and encouraged its church members to donate to its 2012 Hurricane Appeal. The NYC Disaster Interfaith Services sent out an email Sunday to say staff and volunteers would keep in touch with members and plan to meet Tuesday "to begin the process of assessing impacts and responding to unmet needs of affected individuals and communities."

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance noted on its Facebook page that it had contacted mid-councils along the Atlantic Coast, suggesting that they activate their disaster plans and connect with other voluntary organizations active in disasters. The organization said it is ready to respond with support from One Great Hour of Sharing and members of its National Response Team.

The Reformed Church in America, working in partnership with World Renew DRS, said it was monitoring the storm and urged members to assemble flood buckets for Church World Service that could be used in response to the disaster.

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