ERTs respond after EF-1 tornado hits Columbia

By Billy Robinson

COLUMBIA—South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission’s Early Response Team responded in the aftermath of an EF-1 tornado that hit a neighborhood on Saluda River Road in March.

On Sunday evening, March 3, an entire neighborhood saw just how forceful and damaging an EF-1 tornado could be as it toppled many trees, some of which were huge and several of those onto homes, plus one actually splitting a home in half.

On Saluda River Road, a huge pine tree not only hit a home but literally split it in two as it violently crashed through. A resident’s life was spared by inches as the massive tree landed on a couch, trapping him inside until a neighbor could clear enough debris for him to get out.

Monday found him with some family members, plus the owner, fervently trying to clear away the massive debris out of his home so he could retrieve and salvage his belongings. Debris also had to be moved off three vehicles that were severely damaged.

We joined them and formed a powerful team through which God moved a mountain of debris and restored hope and warm love to the residents and homeowners. The overall team flowed well together starting with debris removal off the vehicles, then access into the home, where all valuables and belongings were removed and safely stored.

It was a beautiful sight to see such a caring and loving gathering of volunteer strangers uniting as one to help people in dire need.

Volunteers on March 4 included myself as team leader, as well as Don and Kathy Beatty and Felix and Misty Vazquez.

But the work was not done; several other homes were damaged, and many trees still needed to be cut to provide access and safe passage to homes. On Wednesday, March 6, ERT members returned with 14 volunteers and two disaster response trailers.

The energetic crew went full-force into work on a cold and brisk morning being Jesus’s outreached hands of care and compassion to three families in need. Two homes and a driveway were cut free of trees and debris. A huge pine tree was no match for their compassionate will and determination.

Two homes had received roof damage and were tarped. The team split to multitask at the three locations and came together at times in an assembly line of precise production to get the task at hand completed.

At the end of a productive day of hard work, the team gathered in a circle to pray for all the survivors and needs of everyone involved. The chainsaws and trailers were readied for future responses as each member was well aware that we were now in tornado season—and then comes hurricane season.

ERT volunteers were myself and my wife, Trudy Robinson, as well as the Beattys, the Vazquezes, the Rev. Mike Evans, Robert Scott, Bill and Elaine Turner, Ed Wesson, Dan Dowbridge, Monica Tilley and Steve Yano.

For more on the work of the ERT and how to get involved: 803-539-8429 or [email protected].

Robinson is South Carolina UMVIM ERT coordinator.

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