NC Baptist Men respond to flood in Catawba County

by Mike Creswell
  • NC Baptist Men volunteers discuss flood relief at a command center at First Baptist Church in Newton.

  • NC Baptist Men volunteers repair a water pipe in a home in Newton, in which the basement flooded. James Strickland, left, is a member of Penelope Baptist Church in Longview and Scott Bell is a member of New Life Church in Conover.

Friday, August 9, 2013 | 1 year old

Teams of NC Baptist Men volunteers are responding to a flood that damaged more than 800 homes and destroyed several Saturday, Aug. 3, across random spots in the Newton, Conover and Hickory areas of Catawba County and in parts of Iredell, Alexander and Cabarrus counties.

More than 12 inches of rain fell in some areas within just a few hours on Aug. 3, creating walls of water that overwhelmed drains, knocked out several bridges and closed more than a dozen roads. Creeks and rivers were clogged with trees, limbs and debris.

NC Baptist Men set up a command center at First Baptist Church in Newton the next day, sharing several rooms of the church's educational building with American Red Cross workers. Assessment teams worked Sunday and Monday to identify situations needing help.

Some homes received more than six feet of water and heavy damage; others took in only an inch or two of water.

Dacia Jones, site administrator at the command center, said they identified more than 600 homes needing repair. "We need 200 volunteers right now," she said on Monday. She is a member of First Baptist Church, Hickory.

Richard Brunson, NC Baptist Men executive director, issued emailed appeals to volunteers across the state, appealing for teams to come help.

One team responded to a damaged home that was designated "critical" in need: A woman suffering from cancer and struggling to keep her elderly mother with dementia. The basement of the home took in several inches of water, creating mold and potential for health hazards.

David Whitaker, Larry Gragg and Truey Benfield arrived and began removing damaged wall panels so they could be replaced. Whitaker and Gragg are members of Double Springs Baptist Church near Shelby; Benfield is from Ichter.

Volunteer Wayne Parker visited a fabricating shop in Newton which received about five feet of water. Owner Rowe Bollinger said a wall of water struck the shop with so much force it bent open a steel door and poured across the concrete floor and out bay doors on the other side, before flooding the basement of his nearby home.

Baptist Men coordinators said volunteer teams would likely be needed for several weeks to help families recover from the flood's effects.

Such disaster response is possible because of the financial support NC Baptist Men receive from North Carolina Baptists through their North Carolina Missions Offering. NCMO funding supports coordination, equipment, training and other aspects of disaster relief carried out year-round by upwards of 14,000 trained volunteers, plus 13 other ministries.

Those interested in volunteering may contact Tommy Styers, recovery blue hat in Newton, at (828) 244-5686 or styers@att.net.