United Methodists in northeast brace for storm

The expected path of Hurricane Sandy.

United Methodists in the Northeast are bracing for the incoming Hurricane Sandy today, which is expected to make landfall in Central New Jersey. Forecasters say the “superstorm” threatens 50 million people in the nation’s most heavily populated area.

UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for U.S. disaster response, the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, urged residents of the Northeast to heed warnings to prepare and if necessary, to evacuate, emphasizing that that Hurricane Sandy is a “serious storm.”

“There will be a lot of needs as a result of this storm,” according to Mr. Hazelwood.

Sandy’s tropical-storm-force winds extend almost 500 miles from its center, and its storm surge is predicted to reach nearly unprecedented levels.  Maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, with gusts of up to 115 mph, have been measured.

Conferences in the Northeast Jurisdiction—New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, Susquehanna, and Upper New York—are also making plans. The Rev. Wayne Jones, Disaster Response coordinator for the Greater New Jersey Conference, told UMCOR’s Cathy Earl he expects to deploy early response teams (ERT).

Mr. Jones said that those wishing to help can give to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670, which will also cover needs in the Caribbean region. Be sure to choose “Hurricanes 2012” from the drop-down menu.

 Sandy’s wake

Even though its offices are closed in New York today and tomorrow, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is already reaching out to partners in the Caribbean in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. UMCOR officials are in contact with partners in Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. So far, Hurricane Sandy is known to have killed 65 people in the Caribbean, including 51 in Haiti. Communications systems remain unreliable in the region, and there are widespread power outages.

UMCOR consultant the Rev. Juan Vera Méndez was able to speak from Puerto Rico with Cuban Bishop Ricardo Pereira, who spent the weekend traveling to the provinces that suffered the greatest damage—Santiago de Cuba and Holguin.

Mr. Pereira reported destruction to homes—about 35,000 were damaged or destroyed—agricultural fields, and electrical and telephone systems, and said that funds for emergency response are the “priority need” at this point.

In Jamaica, parts of the country outside the capital, Kingston, “are still reeling from the effects of the hurricane,” wrote the Rev. George Mulrain, a pastor of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA). He said the storm left flooding, blocked roads, and ruined crops, among other damages.

Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR associate general secretary for International Development, has been in contact with UMCOR field staff in Haiti, who are assessing damages. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe described Hurricane Sandy’s impact on Haiti as “a disaster of major proportions.”

Linda Unger, staff editor and senior writer for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, contributed to this report.  

 

Mary Jacobs

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