ERT helps after severe storms, tornadoes impact region

By Billy Robinson

A swath of severe storms and tornados Jan. 9 prompted much-needed help from South Carolina’s United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Team.

The weather left downed trees, damaged homes and other destruction in various parts of the state.

On the evening of Jan. 9, the Rev. Mike Evans led a combination team of ERT and Edgefield volunteer firefighters to cut a tree away and tarp the roof of a home in Edgefield.

On Jan. 10, the Rev. John Elmore, the Rev. Fred and Clara Buchanan and Don and Kathy Beatty completed ERT damage assessments in Bamberg to lay the foundation for a full-scale response Jan. 11.

On Jan. 11, two ERT teams with two ERT trailers and access to a skid steer responded to the Town of Bamberg where an EF-2 tornado wreaked havoc through much of downtown.

A large focus was placed on tarping a damaged portion of roof on top of Main Street United Methodist Church. The effort required the building of a structure to support a tarp and use of a high-ranging bucket truck, provided by my son William Robinson, who was in Bamberg working on downed power lines with his company NorthStar Utilities.

Volunteers spread throughout Bamberg into three other teams doing chainsaw work on downed trees, removing debris from storm-damaged homes and yards and tarping damaged roofs, all while witnessing and encouraging survivors in the name of Jesus Christ.

At least six homes and families were helped. ERT responders included Evans, the Buchanans, the Beattys, Bill Turner, Danny McKeown, Darrel Briggs, Mark Honge, the Rev. Cynthia Williams, the Rev. Sheera Yates, Dan Dowbridge and Monica Tilley. Others assisting were South Carolina UMC Orangeburg District Superintendent the Rev. Ken Nelson; Mike Baldwin of Bamberg, who used his skid steer to help; Dan O’Mara; Jayne Schaefer; Nancy Goff; and Bud Parker.

Also on Jan. 11, a third team—comprising Chuck Marshall, Phil Griswold, Ward Smith, Felix Vazquez, Trudy Robinson and myself—responded with an ERT trailer to the Orangeburg County towns of Santee and Bowman.

At each location, we were faced with daunting, dangerous situations where 30- to 50-foot sections of tin roofs had been ripped off mobile homes, exposing the homes to the weather and rain. Our team had to cut strips in the partially attached tin roofs that were laying on the ground, then hoist them up by hand and ropes back onto the roof truss while taking care not to fall through into the home or off the damaged structural members. We then placed duct tape over the sharp edges and completely tarped the homes over the replaced tin roofs.

This daunting task took us all day and into the night. At both locations families were still living out of the severely damaged structures and had all of their furniture and possessions inside.

In Bowman a man came up to my wife, Trudy, and stated how amazed he was that total strangers from all across South Carolina who had no affiliation with the homeowners would give of their time, finances and physical efforts in taking on such dangerous tasks to help others in dire need. Many people had passed by to look and take photos, but no one else had stopped to help in any way, the man said.

“I want to be a part of a true ministry like yours that goes beyond the church walls and directly into the danger zones to help others in dire need,” the man told her. “This is the church in action as I have never seen it before.” 

All three teams worked especially hard to get all the disaster work completed Jan. 11 as additional severe storms and more soaking rain were predicted for the next day.

Teams were able to finish all known emergent needs.

We thank our Lord and savior Jesus Christ for the honor and privilege of serving in this wonderful, exciting and extremely fulfilling ministry of care, love and devotion to helping others in dire need.

Want to help?

The next ERT Basic Training Class is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 17 at 9 a.m. at St. John’s UMC, Aiken, for all who would like to join the ERT ministry. Contact Billy Robinson for information at 803-539-8429 or [email protected].

Robinson is coordinator of S.C. UMVIM ERT.

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