APALACHICOLA, Fla. (Christian Examiner) — As Hurricane Hermine races towards Florida's Gulf Coast, disaster relief volunteers are on full alert – both in Florida and in Louisiana
Hermine is expected to make landfall by early Friday and would be the state's first hurricane since Hurricane Wilma – a devastating Category 5 storm — struck Florida's coast nearly 11 years ago, killing 25 people.
The storm comes at a time when Florida Baptist Disaster Relief units are onsite in Baton Rogue, and in Denham Springs, Louisiana, where they have joined an estimated 1,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from across Louisiana and other state Baptist conventions, according to Baptist Press and Florida Baptist Disaster Relief.
Still, the website for Florida Baptist Disaster Relief in an update spoke of "contingency plans" if return to Florida is needed, and indicated members of the state task force have been in communication with the state's Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
"Teams are asked to prepare to self-activate in their respective area or respond to a state call if needed," the website reported. "County EOC's have been called and advised of our readiness."
In a Facebook post August 28, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief Ministries assured readers they are on top of the weather while making the best use of time and equipment in helping out those slammed by what has been considered worse than Katrina flooding in Louisiana.
"Florida we are working hard in #LouisianaFlood but are still #RightBesideYou here in state. We are keeping a close eye on #TD9. #FloridaBaptist," the post reads.
Cedar Key, 100 miles north of Tampa, already reported three feet of floodwater earlier today, according to USA Today.
"This is life-threatening," Gov. Rick Scott said today in Tallahassee. "The storm surge, by itself, is life-threatening."
A storm surge in the hurricane's path is anticipated in an area nearly identical to one section hugely impacted by Hurricane Dennis, which made landfall in the Florida Panhandle July 10, 2005.
At that time parts of U.S. Route 98 was washed out by floodwaters, sand dunes on St. Georges Island washed away, the oyster industry in Apalachicola was nearly decimated, and families were in need of disaster relief operations for nearly three months.
The potential for flooding and tornados is serious, said the governor who declared a state of emergency for 51 of the state's 67 counties. All state offices in the 51 counties were closed at noon today.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for coastal communities in the Gulf Coast.
In early August, Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, said the disaster relief volunteers in Florida "work at being ready to respond in a rapid fashion to the needs of people in the event of a disaster."
Green reported there are more than 7,000 trained Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers across Florida.
"I am grateful for a tremendous team of DR servant volunteers who are proactive in preparedness and readiness to respond in times of crisis," Green said.