SBTC DR crews serve San Augustine tornado victims, prepare for Houston and Southeast Texas deployments
May 10th, 2019 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
SAN AUGUSTINE Out-of-towners Mary and Jamie stopped by Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church to say thanks to Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers who had assisted Jamie’s mother, a San Augustine resident, in clearing downed trees from her yard following an April 24 tornado.
“If y’all hadn’t been there, we would have had to do it all. We couldn’t have done it all. We didn’t have chainsaws or the manpower to do it,” Mary said as volunteers circled up to pray, SBTC DR worker Debby Nichols told the TEXAN.
The couple’s response typified those of community members whose homes and yards were hit April 24 by an EF2 tornado which uprooted trees and damaged more than 50 structures, including the transmission tower of an electrical substation, before moving through the northern part of the town, uprooting and snapping trees.
Six of the eight tornadoes which blasted across East Texas and Louisiana came from a supercell that formed in San Augustine County and crossed the Toledo Bend area into Louisiana, the National Weather Service reported.
No injuries were reported in San Augustine, although a tornado claimed the lives of a mother and son in Ruston, La.
SBTC DR assessors arrived in San Augustine Sun., April 28, in advance of chainsaw and feeding teams who arrived during the week to begin work.
“The average yard had 15-20 tons of tree damage,” George Yarger, SBTC DR unit leader during the first week of the deployment, said. Yarger praised the people of San Augustine as both “patient and kind.” Volunteers prayed with many, finding the town filled with “pretty solid believers,” he added.
“If we cannot find lost people, we just find Christians and encourage them,” Yarger said.
SBTC DR’s base of operations at Greater Mount Olive Baptist, a central location, attracted victims.
“People came to us. They were interested in getting some help,” Yarger said.
While the DR feeding unit originally deployed to feed volunteers, its outreach quickly expanded to the entire community.
“Sunday night April 28 we fed the first meal, and began supplying 400 meals a day to the public,” DR volunteer Debra Britt said, adding that feeding team leader Irvin McWilliams would pick up food daily from Sam’s warehouse in Lufkin while commuting to and from the disaster site.
SBTC DR crews suspended operations in San Augustine on May 5 in advance of predicted thunderstorms, Britt confirmed. Teams, including a chainsaw team from the Louisiana Baptist Association, are expected to resume recovery efforts on May 12.
As of May 5, some 22 SBTC DR volunteers had completed 19 of 49 chainsaw and recovery jobs in the San Augustine area. Volunteers also shared the gospel and prayed with dozens of victims and prepared and served hundreds of meals.
Small teams of SBTC DR volunteers also recently served storm victims in Mexia, Texas, and began assisting the Salvation Army in feeding efforts related to the immigration crisis along the El Paso/Juarez border.
Meanwhile, when it rains, it pours in disaster relief.
SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice issued a call-out for teams to prepare to deploy to Houston and Southeast Texas to minister to flood victims in the wake of May 7 storms which swept across the area. Also, SBTC DR’s QRT quick response feeding trailer is scheduled to deploy to Longview with recovery volunteers and a shower unit to assist May 8 tornado victims.