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Hurricane survivors to be response focus


NORTH CAROLINA (August 26, 1998) -- While the last of more than 750,000 residents and vacationers ordered to

leave the North and South

Carolina coast depart, disaster response organizations Wednesday have made

preparations to

serve thousands of disaster survivors.

The massive hurricane began spreading wind and rain along the coast

Wednesday morning as the 300-mile wide storm drew closer to North and South

Carolina. According to 8 a.m. reports, it was still a Category 3 hurricane

with sustained winds of 115 mph and gusts

of 140 mph.

The Cape Fear region of North Carolina which is expected to initially

bear the brunt of the storm, is still recovering from Hurricane Fran which

devasted the area in 1996. Predicted to arrive near high tide, Bonnie may

push a storm surge of more than 12-feet across the islands along the coast.

While hurricane warnings stretched from SC, northward to

Chincoteague, VA., Adventist Community Services (ACS) have 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


"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 assist creating 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.

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 have also

prepared for Bonnie.

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

in 1993, has identified 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


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

council has improved 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 emergency operations centers. Aiken is

also networking with others who have worked in past hurricane relief


"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.

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

Wednesday and could affect the U.S. coast as early as this weekend.

Posted August 26, 1998

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