By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
Hurricane Michael made landfall along the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane shortly after noon local time on Oct. 10, leaving devastation in its wake.
At least two people have died as a result of the storm, including an 11-year-old girl in Georgia and a man in Greensboro, Florida.
Several Florida beach communities including Panama City and Mexico Beach were thrashed by the storm’s fierce winds and flood waters. South Alabama also received damage as the eye passed near Gordon in Houston County as a Category 3 hurricane.
The Dothan Eagle reported that thousands of trees were toppled in winds ranging from 60 to 90 miles per hour.
In an Oct. 11 tweet, Brian Hastings, director of Alabama Emergency Management, said 92,000 residents were without power. Alabama Power reported 45,000 customers were without electricity as of 4:30 a.m. Oct. 11: 10,000 in Houston County; 7,400 in Henry; 6,000 in Lee; 5,800 each in Geneva and Dale; 5,200 in Barbour; and 3,000 in Russell.
Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba called the storm “an unprecedented catastrophic event.”
First responders received hundreds of calls of downed trees on roadways and homes.
John Thomas, associational missionary/director of missions for Southeast Alabama Baptist Association, said he received more than 100 requests for assistance in the hours following the storm. In a Facebook update, he said disaster relief teams were being contacted and said he expected teams to get to work Thursday afternoon when a curfew was set to be lifted in the area.
Florida Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) said its staff is in full preparation mode working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management at its State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
“Volunteers are moving to standby to respond when safe to do so,” a statement at Florida Baptist DR’s website said. “We are working with other partners as the Red Cross and The Salvation Army as well as our Southern Baptist Disaster Relief State partners and NAMB (North American Mission Board) in anticipation of a major response. We are grateful for your prayers!”
In a video posted Oct. 10, Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), asked for prayer for those in the hurricane’s path and said Alabama Baptists are ready to respond.
“Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief people are preparing and ready to go and help people not only in Alabama but in Florida and Georgia.”
The initial response by Alabama Baptist DR will focus on southeast Alabama, said Mark Wakefield, SBOM disaster relief strategist. Chainsaw teams are making their way there today, he said, and a feeding unit out of Morgan Baptist Association is being deployed to feed people in shelters and others in the area.
“We are moving resources that way today,” Wakefield said.
Those wishing to help with hurricane relief efforts are urged to give through Alabama Baptist DR at https://sbdr.org/donate/, where every dollar given is used toward Disaster Relief efforts.