Long Road to Recovery in Tennessee
By Linda Unger*
May 11, 2010—“We’re still trying to get our arms around this,” said Disaster Response Coordinator Bill Carr of the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was referring to the aftermath of severe flooding that has affected much of Tennessee since May 1.
Out of 21 counties in the Memphis Conference, 18 were declared federal disaster areas. “Farmers have lost crops and equipment, and once beautiful, level farmlands are now strewn with cars, tree limbs, and other debris carried by the floodwaters,” Carr said, while fresh rain fell.
“People are out of school, out of work, and out of money,” he added. “There’s a lot of stress.”
In all, 52 counties in Tennessee were affected by the record-setting rains and floods. Thirty people died and damages are estimated at 1.5 billion dollars.
In Nashville, in central Tennessee, Disaster Response Coordinator Jason Brock called the effects of the flooding “incredibly widespread.” Creeks and rivers overflowed their banks and caused flash flooding and inundation.
Cleaning Buckets Needed
“We had 250 cleaning buckets on hand at the time the floods started,” Brock said. “That’s five times as many as we’ve ever needed. UMCOR delivered 1,872 buckets on Friday and today, Monday, we just gave out the last of them. We’ve distributed a total of 2,400 buckets so far, and another 1,872 are on the way.”
Carr, in Memphis, distributed 2,600 cleaning buckets and was awaiting another shipment of 1,800. In total, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) sent more than 10,000 cleaning buckets to Tennessee last week.
UMCOR’s Facebook page was replete with messages of gratitude and anxious requests for more buckets. “Thank you from the folks in Carthage, TN,” wrote Dawn Vaden Boss. “We have made flood buckets and sent them out, but this is the first time we’ve had to have them come IN. God is good.”
Sheryl Rennie Hall called the cleaning buckets “a godsend for people who are just now beginning to be able to clean where the water recedes.” She offered up a plea to “keep them coming!”
Responding With Love to Widespread Need
There are “dozens and dozens” of affected communities, said Brock in Nashville. Trained personnel are spread thin, so others with little or no training in disaster response have stepped up to the plate.
“We’ve helped them know how to deal with debris, how to watch out for safety hazards, things they can quickly absorb,” Brock said. “And they have stepped up and shared their hope and love. Many of them are still dealing with this disaster themselves.”
Local churches have worked together—United Methodists, Baptists, Church of Christ and others—to feed the hungry and shelter those left homeless, Brock reported. “It is one of the most beautiful things, seeing all the churches and people of faith coming together without regard for the different emblems they wear.
“There is so much energy and love out poured,” he added. “It breaks your heart thinking about the hardships that lie ahead.”
More Than Picking up Debris
Back in Memphis, Bill Carr got ready to visit a community of migrant workers in need of help. As he did, he reflected that taking care of one another in the wake of the flooding is “not just about picking up debris. It’s about showing that Christ cares, that God cares,” he said.
“We’re still in the emergency phase,” Carr said as he asked for prayers and encouraged all to “take ten minutes to stop, be still, and pray for the survivors and the responders, so we can get to the relief and recovery phase.”
Cleaning buckets and other relief aid remain in short supply in Tennessee. Click here to learn how you can assemble and send cleaning buckets.
Your contribution will aid the clean-up in Tennessee and other areas affected by spring storms and tornadoes. Your generosity will support the rebuilding of communities, including the reconstruction of homes and places of worship. Please earmark your donation for US Domestic Disaster Response, Spring Storms, UMCOR Advance #901670.
*Linda Unger is UMCOR's staff writer.