ERTs on standby, ready for next storm after Isaias

By Jessica Brodie

Coastal residents took a collective breath last month after a brush with Hurricane Isaias.

Teetering between a tropical storm and a Category 1 hurricane, Hurricane Isaias chugged up the South Carolina coast Aug. 3 before making landfall in North Carolina, causing flooding and storm surge but no major damage requiring a deployment of early disaster response work teams from the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

“It required us to send out assessment teams in the Marion District, really from Myrtle Beach and up, but we found most places that had flooding were vacation homes, or insurance had already handled it. In other words, we didn’t find anyone who needed our help,” said Billy Robinson, coordinator of the South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Team.

Robinson said the ERT’s Brian Nolan passed out three dozen flood buckets in the Cherry Grove area of the state, also leaving a number at Little River UMC for anyone else who might need them now or in the future.

Matt Brodie, UMCSC Disaster Response coordinator, said ERTs were “geared up, ready and waiting as the storm came in.”

While an ERT work response wasn’t needed, Brodie said, “We’re still preparing, still in the midst of hurricane season, so we’re not putting our guard down.”

Robinson said the storm served as a good test drive for what the season could bring. Meteorologists warned this year’s season could be significant, with 24 named storms predicted.

“It ended up being a trial run of everybody getting their equipment double-checked, their chainsaws running, things like that,” Robinson said. “We had conference calls and got in touch. Bottom line, we are mobilized and ready to go.

“We’re already ready. We hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

Robinson and Brodie said the conference has already taken special precautions this year to be sure teams are protected against COVID-19, as any response in the pandemic could put responders at risk. They have implemented social distancing requirements and plan to take temperatures onsite should a response occur.

“But we’ve got to go help,” Robinson said. “We can’t sit back and not respond. Christ calls us to go into the battle in the midst of the storm, not just be a ship safe in the harbor. …

“We must help our neighbors in need and not sit on the sidelines.”

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