LEONARDTOWN, Md.— Extensive hurricane damage in southern Maryland has kicked Baptist disaster relief teams into overdrive.
Youth group members from Leonardtown Church, Matt Dooley, Alec Gough, Josh Reichard, Phillip Lindsay, and Ryan Lindsay, wrestle with a tree uprooted by Hurricane Irene.
“I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we saw. The news accounts somehow have missed showing this extensive damage,” said Richard Logsdon, director of missions for the Potomac Association. “Many of the residents are out of electricity, water and sewer and may be so for a week or more. Massive trees are down everywhere and many homes have gaping holes in their roofs.”
Logsdon, working with Mike Hayden, lead disaster relief assessor for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, and area pastors, found extensive damage caused by Hurricane Irene in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties. Logsdon described the damage as worse than that caused by Hurricane Isabel in 2003 or the 2002 tornado that devastated 26 miles of residences and businesses in nearby La Plata, Md.
“If you took what you saw in La Plata and scattered it, this is what happened here,” Logsdon said, noting that the devastation went largely unnoticed because it occurred away from major thoroughfares.
Logsdon also toured Chesapeake Beach, Md., with local pastor Dan Howard of Bayside Church. Portions of the highway were closed because of extensive damage to the electric lines by fallen trees. Local residents told Logsdon a falling tree killed three people as they were trying to reach a shelter.
According to early findings, the most devastated area appears to be the Lexington Park and Leonardtown areas. Leonardtown Church Pastor Mark Dooley said it appeared like “a bomb was dropped” in these areas.
In response to the assessment, all disaster relief volunteers with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware have been activated, said Ellen Udovich, the convention’s ministry evangelism missionary who works closely with disaster relief.
“Please pray for Richard, his pastors and his churches. Some pastors are still without power and for some that means no water as well. Pray for the safety of the volunteers,” Udovich said. “Pray for those in the community who have been devastated by the storm. And pray also that through this terrible event the churches will seize the opportunity to minister to their communities.”
A command center has been set up at Leonardtown Church to position out-of-state volunteers who will assist with recovery, said Carl Brill, incident commander for the operation. The space, which includes kitchen support from Leonardtown Church and can accommodate up to 70 volunteer workers, is currently housing recovery, feeding and chaplain volunteers.
Brill also noted that a Kentucky Baptist shower trailer has arrived, and at least three chainsaw/recovery teams from Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee have been deployed. Communications have been established with the local county emergency operations center, so Southern Baptist relief teams have access to the county assessment list and can avoid duplication of effort.
“This is kind of an overwhelming situation,” Brill said. “But we are ready for this …. We are ready to get out and cut wood — and there’s a lot of it. We are also on alert for those divine appointments where God has arranged for us to talk to people about their spiritual needs.”
Local church members already have assisted the American Red Cross in distributing water and snacks to residents without power. Now that power is being restored in much of the area, Brill anticipates receiving numerous requests for cleanup assistance.
Allen Acker, associate pastor of youth at Leonardtown Church, organized a group of about 25 youth to go door-to-door in Town Creek, the hardest-hit community in their area. The teens cleaned up debris in yards, leaving the chainsaw work for the disaster relief teams.
“Most people made it out OK, but there are a number of instances where residents had multiple trees fall on their houses,” Acker said. “We’re really appreciative of the disaster relief crews who have come here to help. Their effort will be a very great way to reach the community.”
Noting that the storm has given a “fresh opportunity” to personally interact with the people of Town Creek, who are predominantly Catholic, Acker said he is praying for “lasting impact in the community.”
This article originally appeared in BaptistLIFE.