February 5, 2007
Four Counties receive Federal Declaration
Information continues to be updated on the February 1 tornadoes that hit four counties in Florida. Karen Thompson, minister for disaster response and recovery for the UCC Florida Conference; and Bill Wealand, pastor of the UCC Villages church are working together as relief and then recovery efforts move forward. Karen has reported that several UCC members have minor to severe damage to their homes, with one report of a totally destroyed home. Relief funds are being made available on request through the One Great Hour of Sharing special fund, Emergency USA.
Four Florida counties received a federal disaster declaration for Friday's deadly tornadoes. The tornadoes killed at least 20 people and damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
The announcement came Saturday that a Presidential disaster declaration was approved for Lake, Sumter, Volusia and Seminole counties for public, individual and mitigation assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency now has five Disaster Recovery Centers set up for affected residents to utilize.
The National Weather Service said at least three tornadoes with winds of up to 165-miles-per-hour ripped through the four counties in the early morning hours of Friday. The state emergency management division said the hardest hit areas are in Lake and Volusia counties.
More than 1,500 homes in Lake County saw damage, with at least 100 destroyed. The Lake County communities of Lady Lake and Paisley were devastated, with television images showing buildings and mobile homes shredded and scattered over a 20-mile area. A state of emergency is in effect for the four counties and damage assessments are continuing.
Volusia County is reporting 700 homes damaged or destroyed, with hundreds of others affected.
Sumter County is reporting 400 to 500 homes damaged.
The Volusia County communities of DeLand and New Smyrna Beach were hit hard, with county damage estimates hitting $80 million. Four county schools suffered damage. Minor damages are also reported in Orange, Marion and Indian River counties.
Members of the Florida chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (FLVOAD) are conducting daily conference calls to organize and stay in contact about resources and responses. The members met in person on Sunday to continue the response activities, including distributing information to the public, about the best ways to help the affected residents. The agencies continue to push monetary donations as the best way to help, and that showing up in the affected areas as an unaffiliated volunteer only adds to recovery problems.
Agencies including Florida Baptist Disaster Relief, the Latter Day Saints, Adventist Community Services, Christian Contractors Association, Christian Disaster Response and Compassion Alliance have more than 700 volunteers operating as clean-up crews and donation management crews in the affected areas. FLVOAD agencies are providing supplies such as ice, food, water, tarps and more to affected residents. Church World Service is providing health kits and blankets for distribution as well.
Church denominations are checking in on their local churches and providing assistance as needed. Numerous other agencies are also offering their assistance, including Florida Interfaith Networking in Disasters, Catholic Charities, Church of the Brethren Disaster Child Care, Lutheran Disaster Response, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Nazarene Disaster Services, Operation Blessing, Florida Disciples of Christ, the United Church of Christ and the local United Methodist Church conferences. Other agencies such as Convoy of Hope and America's Second Harvest are providing truckloads of food, and The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross are operating shelters in the affected counties. Several churches are also shelter sites.
One church in Lady Lake was completely demolished by the tornado. The Lady Lake Church of God had been built to withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds, but was reduced to rubble Friday morning. Curfews were in effect across the counties since Friday. Some 1,500 were still without power Sunday morning in Volusia County. Debris continues to keep roads closed and boil water notices are in effect for some areas as well.
How you can help
1. Pray for people who live in communities affected by tornadoes.
2. To help those affected by disasters you may, send gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Emergency USA " with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.
3. Send gifts, made out to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Emergency USA" to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources; Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.
4. Make a secure online donation now.