SBTC Annual Meeting 2019

SBTC DR aids Oklahoma flood victims; Webbers Falls resident: ‘If anyone can help this town, it would be Southern Baptist Disaster Relief’

June 10th, 2019 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

WEBBERS FALLS and BLACKWELL, Okla.  In flooded Webbers Falls, Okla., the news that the Southern Baptists were coming to help came as no surprise to one resident.

As rising floodwaters from the nearby Arkansas River threatened their home, Hal and Sue Myers, both in their 80s, were evacuated with their fellow townspeople from Webbers Falls, population 610. Mrs. Myers grabbed clothing for a few days, personal items, medicine and her Bible, her daughters, Tulsa residents Dawn Hart and Susie Rose, told the TEXAN.

Mr. and Mrs. Myers got the call to evacuate within 13 hours at 10 pm, May 21. Their daughters drove over to help.

“We didn’t actually load up enough stuff,” Rose said. “Mom didn’t think they’d be more than two or three days out of their house.”

“They just didn’t fathom what would happen,” Hart said, adding that her mother, a devout Baptist, insisted, “If anyone would be able to help the town of Webbers Falls, it would be the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.”

The family grew up Southern Baptist, Rose said.

“Mom couldn’t believe it when she heard you all were coming to town,” Hart added.

Of the town’s 190 homes, 174 suffered flood damage. Residents were allowed to return June 2. Hal and Sue found their 2200-square-foot residence, an apartment plus shop area inside a converted hotel, filled with sludge.

It had seemed the perfect place to retire: a brick building located blocks from the Arkansas River. “Dad could tinker and have all his toys and treasures [there],” Hart said.

The Myerses knew the town had flooded before, but not since 1942, Rose and Hart said. Like most of the other residents of Webbers Falls, they had no flood insurance and were shocked when floodwater swept in, not only from the river but also from run-off from nearby submerged fields that remained swamped days later.

A Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief mud-out crew cleared the Myers home of debris and ruined belongings, stripped walls of soggy sheetrock, and sprayed the premises with anti-mold treatment.

SBTC DR crews even “kicked out” the Myerses who were “overdoing it,” Hart and Rose said, chuckling and explaining that volunteers urged the couple to get some much-needed rest.

“These are great people with a can-do attitude,” Terry James, SBTC incident leader, said of local residents. James also praised the pastor and people of nearby First Baptist Warner for hosting 24 SBTC DR volunteers, including feeding, shower and laundry and administrative teams in addition to mud-out crews. A dozen newly-trained Oklahoma DR volunteers joined the SBTC crews.

James said the Oklahomans planned to work alongside SBTC DR crews to learn how the Texas teams operate.

“We are not even a week into this and we feel like we are pros now,” newly-minted Oklahoma DR volunteer Sydney Kilgore told the TEXAN.

“They are good teachers. We are partial to Texas now,” Shannon Kennedy, a second new volunteer added, laughing.

More rainfall, and, ironically, the lack of water complicated recovery efforts in Webbers Falls; service had not been restored as of June 7, James said. The situation prompted SBTC DR logistics volunteer Linda Mitter to improvise when the local fire department offered to help.

Mitter purchased couplings to attach SBTC DR equipment to the water supply in the firetruck so DR crews could power wash houses.

James praised local government, police and fire officials.

SBTC DR crews moved to Webbers Falls from Blackwell, Okla., June 2 in response to a request from Oklahoma DR Director Don Williams.

“We had finished everything we could do at Blackwell. We were at a natural stopping point,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice said.

Mike Jansen, SBTC DR incident leader at Blackwell, commended that town’s Immanuel Baptist Church and pastor Matt Smith, an OKDR volunteer himself.

“The church had fed 600 people the weekend before we arrived Tuesday, May 28,” Jansen said. “When we arrived, many parts of east and north Blackwell were still impassable because of high water. The church had already collected a list of people who needed assistance.”

Of 54 Blackwell work orders, SBTC DR crews completed 40, many involving flooded basements and sealed crawlspaces under houses. They assisted all victims whom they were able to contact, Jansen said.

“Everyone just worked hand-in-hand. We shared the gospel with everyone we possibly could: making 44 total spiritual contacts. Many of the people said they were going to check out Immanuel Baptist because they saw them active in this,” Jansen added

“We are glad to be in Oklahoma to serve to help Oklahomans and Oklahoma DR,” Stice said, confirming that SBTC DR crews are expected to be in Oklahoma 2-4 weeks more, as part of a nationally-coordinated Southern Baptist effort to help May flood victims across the Midwest and South.