Administrative Assistants' Retreat

SBTC DR volunteers aid Hurricane Matthew victims in North and South Carolina

October 14th, 2016 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

SBTC DR volunteers aid Hurricane Matthew victims in North and South Carolina

SBTC DR chansaw crews remove a fallen tree from a Betty's Tots day care in Walterboro, S.C., which was blown down during Hurricane Matthew.

WALTERBORO, South Carolina—Lee and Norma Nichols breathed a sigh of relief the morning of Oct. 8. They thought they had escaped the onslaught of Hurricane Matthew relatively unscathed. They still had electrical power.

Lee Nichols even relaxed in the couple’s living room, looking up at calm trees through skylights.

Then the trees began swaying ominously.

“The winds started going and the backside [of the storm] hit us. The trees were really waving,” Nichols recalled.

Norma Nichols, a native of the region, had ridden out hurricanes before. The couple, retired IMB missionaries who served in Asia—mainly in South Korea—for more than 40 years, had elected to stay in their home. Their residence is located only a mile west of Interstate 95, on the edge of the area of recommended evacuation.

“I am almost certain the eye of the storm went right over where we were,” Norma Nichols said. When the winds turned “ferocious,” a large oak tree in the couple’s backyard was uprooted, falling into the side street of their corner lot.

City crews chopped up part of the tree but left large chunks in the street, posing a potential danger to drivers until a four-man SBTC chainsaw team from Atlanta, Texas, arrived to take care of the problem.

“The tree was within three feet of a power line,” SBTC DR white hat Jim Howard said. “We threw a line on it and pulled it out. We are trained for this.”

“They finished the job,” Norma Nichols said.

“We are most grateful to the folks from Texas,” Lee Nichols added.

Such appreciation is evident throughout the region, Howard noted. “Everywhere we go, people stop us and thank us.”  

“Our first job was to remove a tree off a day care center so they could get back open and help folks around the community by taking care of their children,” Rick Grandmaison, chainsaw unit director, said.

In another instance, the chainsaw team needed help from the local police to assist one 96-year-old resident. A policewoman had been checking on the elderly lady, Howard said. The officer had helped the lady fill out the work order for the removal of a large limb that had fallen on her home. The officer had to be called to the home to assist the victim to the door to meet the chainsaw team.

“[The lady] couldn’t hear us banging on her door,” Howard said. “She was disappointed that we had to cut the limb,” he added with a slight chuckle. “Her cats enjoyed climbing up and down it, but the officer told her that it had to go.”

To date, more than 10 chainsaw jobs have been completed and even more spiritual contacts made, Grandmaison added. “We are trying to help these people as much as we can.”

A shower unit and feeding team from Flint, Texas, was also deployed to Walterboro to offer assistance, with SBTC DR volunteers being housed at Walterboro First Baptist Church.

SBTC DR teams have also established feeding, laundry and shower operations in North Carolina, said Scottie Stice, SBTC director of disaster relief.

An SBTC feeding team of 15 has deployed to Whiteville, North Carolina, in support of a Missouri feeding unit. Meals will be distributed to the affected communities. An SBTC laundry unit was also sent to Whiteville, Stice said. Volunteers are housed at Western Prong Baptist Church.

Noting that many North Carolina rural communities are “underwater,” while others have fared better, Stice added that the Whiteville crew is “cut off by floodwaters” from Lumberton, where four SBTC volunteers are manning a laundry unit in support of the North Carolina National Guard.

The work in Lumberton marks the first time SBTC DR personnel have deployed in direct support of a National Guard unit, Stice said, requesting prayer for victims and DR volunteers in the Carolinas.