The June floods stretched from Abilene to Houston as 28 southeast Texas counties received state and federal disaster declarations. Damage estimates in Houston caused by Tropical Storm Allison are $1 billion. Officials reported 20 deaths in June in Texas and Louisiana.
While the June flooding has presented a formidable challenge, it actually is the third flood wave that began in March when the Sabine River in Deweyville flooded and crested at 33.24 feet, the highest on record. At least three Baptist churches in Kirbyville had water up to their eaves, Henderson said.
In East Texas, Henderson said flooding occurred from Texarkana along the Louisiana border all the way to Orange, where he established an incident command team. Disaster Relief teams did flood clean up on 146 homes, tear out on 163, pressure washed 51 and performed mold remediation on 158.
Before recovery operations ceased in East Texas, a flash flood on April 18 swamped Houston as about one foot of rain fell on the nation’s fourth largest city claiming seven lives and making it the wettest day there since 1888.
Most of the deceased died in their cars while trying to traverse flooded roads. An estimated 1,200 Houstonians required rescue assistance.
Houston is America’s most vulnerable city to death and injury due to flooding, according to Samuel Brody, director of the Environmental Planning and Sustainability Research Unit at Texas A&M University. The city sits on soft soil and is the second fastest growing city in the U.S. Buildings erected to accommodate that growth replace pastures, which are better suited to handle the rain and its runoff.
Despite the pressing emergency in Texas’ largest metropolitan region, Henderson kept teams in East Texas to fulfill home recovery commitments in Orange and Newton counties.
This month’s flooding claimed the lives of nine Fort Hood soldiers who were participating in training exercises.
Texas Baptist Men have maximized their response efficiency with church partnerships. Copperfield Baptist Church in northwest Houston served as their base of operations during the April Houston floods. More recently, West Conroe Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Rosenberg have hosted disaster operations.
John Reid, the pastor of Rosenberg First Baptist, said that both Texas Baptist Men and the American Red Cross were very complementary of the attitudes of his church members during the response. The church assigned various responsibilities for members to assist the disaster relief volunteers.
“I was encouraged to see the attitude of our people,” Reid said. “They are a giving and understanding group.”
Texas Baptist Men mobilized food, shower, laundry and recovery units, plus chaplains. An estimated seven people have made professions of faith during the response there.
The Rosenberg operation included serving more than 50,000 meals.
West Conroe Baptist Church activated its feeding unit and eventually served an estimated 38,000 meals that 19 American Red Cross emergency response vehicles served to the community, according to Randy Skelton, the church’s mission ministry associate.
The church hosted not only feeding but also mud out, shower and laundry units with Skelton serving as the incident commander for the total operation. The volunteers reported about six spiritual decisions made by community members who received assistance.
Food distribution has ended in Conroe as volunteers complete eight mud-out jobs.
Henderson reports that the total meal counts during the 2016 flood responses has been 108,962 and has consumed more than 5,000 volunteer days. Disaster Relief volunteers have cleaned out 344 homes, pressure washed 101 homes and performed mold remediation in 368 homes.
Operations remain active in Rosenberg, Conroe and Simonton as of June 23.
For Henderson, the back-to-back flood episodes are comparable to the four hurricanes that struck Florida during in 2004 when he resided there. Spreading logistical support across Texas has resulted in volunteer and donor fatigue. Texas Baptist Men are now inviting out-of-state teams to work in designated cities. Also, they have been working with college students and AmeriCorps volunteers, who are typically young adults.
“Most Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief volunteers are older,” Henderson said. “They’ve been like grandparents to the college students.”
Texas Baptist Men initiated Southern Baptist disaster relief in 1967. Nationwide, Southern Baptists now have an estimated 65,000-trained volunteers and 1,550 mobile response units. While Texas Baptist Men have responded internationally since its early days, most efforts will remain focused on the Lone Star State to complete the flood recovery.
Those wishing to donate to Texas Baptist Men can do so by clicking here, or by mailing donations to Texas Baptist Men, 5351 Catron Dr., Dallas, TX 75227. Designate Disaster Relief on the check.