LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief was called to ready its resources as one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history barrels toward Florida.
Millions of South Florida residents living on barrier islands and low-lying mainland areas are under mandatory orders to leave their homes with forecasters predicting catastrophic winds and 15- to 25-feet storm surges when Hurricane Irma hits early Sunday.
Thursday afternoon, Georgia’s governor ordered a mandatory evacuation of the state’s Atlantic coast beginning Saturday.
No other storm has maintained wind speeds of 185 mph for as long as Hurricane Irma. The last storm with similar top winds hit the Philippines in 2013 and killed 6,000 people.
"Our disaster relief teams are already prepared and staging to meet the disaster needs quickly and expeditiously in the case of landfall of Hurricane Irma," said Tommy Green, head of the Florida Baptist Convention.
Coy Webb, director of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, said he received a request on Thursday for a team capable of preparing 25,000 meals per day.
"We are grateful for our partners with the North American Mission Board and other state conventions who are already staging to come beside us in the event of that need," Green said.
Webb said it’s too early to pinpoint where Kentucky Baptists will be assigned. “Hurricane Irma is beginning to closely resemble the path of Hurricane Matthew, which means that it could skirt Florida and slam the Georgia/Carolina coast.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has made a commitment to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey. Trained volunteers will be entering the hardest hit areas of Texas in the coming months. This week, Kentucky Baptists are in Corpus Christi, Houston and Victoria, Texas, feeding people who have no food, no electricity and, in many cases, no home in which to cook.
Texas Baptists and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are taking a step back from kitchen operations at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center and turning over duties to Kentucky Baptists to feed the remaining evacuees three hot meals per day.
Six more Kentucky teams head to Humble, Texas on Saturday to take on the hard, messy work of cleaning up flood-damaged homes.
Webb said teams will continue to rotate into Texas through the first week of October.
"Everyone is stretched thin in this," said David Melber, of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. "But this is causing us to come together and function at a much higher level."