ERTs clear trees, tarp roofs after tornado sweeps through Spartanburg

By Billy Robinson

On the afternoon of Feb. 6, an EF-1 tornado hit Spartanburg near the WestGate Mall, damaging homes, destroying trees and neighborhoods, causing power outages and bringing chaos.

Two days later, Feb. 8, South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Team members were allowed into danger zones to begin helping those hit by the disaster.

After a meeting with Spartanburg Emergency Management, 19 ERT disaster volunteers and three ERT trailers were deployed to zones 1 and 2 of the tornado’s path.

As with most tornados, some homes had a lot of tree and roof damage, while others only yards away had very little or none. The temperature was in the 30s, so many people had left their homes overnight since they had no power and returned in the morning to start clean-up and check on neighbors, and several were returning to check on their pets.

We focused on clearing debris out of driveways, making access routes into people’s homes and placing tarps on damaged roofs. Two driveways that we cleared debris and trees off were for single mothers who had no means of acquiring or financially paying for help. Help was available if you had a lot of extra finances, stated several people, who had companies coming by offering to clear their drives and get trees off of their homes for large sums of money, which most could not afford.

One man who came back to his home to feed his pets told of a company wanting $6,000 to cut and clear several medium-sized trees off his driveway and several that were leaning toward his home. We completed the job for him for free with one six-person team in two hours.

One lady teared up when we showed up to take two big trees off her home and tarp the damaged roof. Her home had been broken into and ransacked several days prior. Some companies had offered to help remove the tree and tarp her roof for large sums of money, which she did not have, especially after being robbed. She said she and her grandmother had prayed tearful and emotional prayers for help the night before, then God sent us in His mighty grace and mercy.

Wow! How wonderful and awesome it is to be used by God! It gives a fulfillment, purpose and meaning to life that nothing else can come even close to.

We were requested to eat lunch at a Red Cross Shelter, where they graciously had prepared a hot meal for us and made us feel right at home. The cold day got a lot colder as a beautiful snow began to fall, which even made disaster scenes reflect the splendor of God’s beauty.

We bundled up and went back to work in the snow, which accumulated around an inch, making conditions a bit more hazardous and miserable, especially while placing tarps on roofs.

At the end of the day, with our hands and feet literally freezing, we had completed work on six homes while completing our assigned zones.

One team, led by our District Disaster Coordinator Chuck Marshall, went back out Friday, Feb. 14. They cut up and cleared downed trees in the yard of the parsonage for St. James United Methodist Church on Arrowhead Circle plus two other homes, one of which was a giant white oak.

We plan to do follow-up work teams as needed with cooperation through Marshall and Emergency Management. Samaritan’s Purse, Team Rubicon and the Southern Baptists had volunteer teams coming in to follow up with any further needs, also.

Once again, we were so thankful and grateful to God for allowing us to be used in His service in such life-changing ways. Glory to God in the highest! Thanks to everyone who supports our ministry through their prayers, financial support and physical efforts.

Robinson is the S.C. UMVIM ERT coordinator. For more information on this ministry, contact him at 803-539-8429 or [email protected].

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