By Kara Witherow, Editor
Last fall, Hurricane Michael slammed into Southwest Georgia as a Category 3 hurricane after making landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a Category 5.
Michael brought 115 mph winds and downed trees and power lines throughout the region. Homes, churches, and businesses were damaged and destroyed. Cotton, peanut, and pecan crops, which were not yet fully harvested, were decimated.
The damage - widespread and far-reaching - is still being felt.
The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season – which runs June 1 through November 30 – is forecast to be “near normal” in regard to the number of named storms and major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Churches and individuals in the South Georgia Conference are prone to being impacted by hurricanes, and as folks in Donalsonville, Colquitt, Bainbridge, and surrounding areas can attest, it’s not just those in the coastal communities who need to be prepared. Those in the southern counties of the conference also need to be aware of the potential for storms to form in the Gulf of Mexico and make their way inland.
Being prepared for storms – whether they’re hurricanes, tornadoes, or wind and rain events – helps protect people and properties when disasters do strike. But how do individuals and congregations best prepare?
Don’t wait. The time to prepare is now, when there isn’t a looming disaster or crisis. Individuals, families, businesses, and churches should all have up-to-date emergency plans and communicate it to key players within the organization(s).
“Everyone needs to be prepared,” said Luis Morales, the South Georgia Conference’s Disaster Coordinator. “Since 2016 when Hurricane Matthew first affected our coast, South Georgia has been hit by one storm or another every year.”
Worship centers and families need to be prepared for all types of emergencies, he said.
“Families need to have a plan for if they are together when a storm happens and also, now that schools are beginning soon, for when they’re apart. The plan needs to include how to communicate and where to meet when it’s safe to do so.”
Churches also need to have plans in place before a disaster strikes.
“Congregations need to know their safe areas within their church campus if a storm hits while they are there,” Morales said.
A few ways churches can be prepared include mounting floor plans, depicting in-place sheltering locations, in visible areas and keeping basic first aid kits and an AED (automated external defibrillator) on hand.
“Our conference can present Connecting Neighbors training which addresses how individuals and churches can better prepare themselves prior to a disaster.”
Here are a few basic preparedness tips from www.ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security: