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Responding to Storms and Flooding in South-Central US

Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the two Episcopal dioceses in Louisiana and has reached out to several more across the region, following severe weather that caused tornadoes and flooding from Texas to Tennessee. Storms began on March 7 and moved east, deluging some parts of Louisiana with 24 inches of rain over a five-day period and causing record floods in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.


Episcopal Relief & Development Press ReleaseApril 21, 2016

Read the full press release here.

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting local church partners in Texas, Ecuador and Japan as they respond to recent disasters. Throughout, local churches are reaching out in their communities to assess needs and accompany people as they cope with the immediate aftermath of the emergency. In addition to pastoral care, churches are also providing temporary housing assistance and emergency supplies such as food, water, fuel and other site-specific needs.

In Texas, as much as 20 inches of rain fell overnight on April 17-18 in northern and northwestern parts of Harris County, affecting the city of Houston and surrounding areas. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency in Harris and eight other counties in response to this event, which has killed eight people, flooded more than 1,100 homes and caused upwards of $5 billion in damage.

In this early stage of the response, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas will utilize Spiritual Care Teams to assess needs and identify vulnerable flood survivors who may benefit from help in applying for assistance and navigating their recovery process. Supported in part by Episcopal Relief & Development, the teams will be able to provide pastoral care and gift cards for immediate needs, as well as offer rent assistance for temporary housing in cases where people have evacuated from their homes and are unable to stay in a shelter. The teams are organized and equipped by The Ven. Russ Oechsel, Texas Archdeacon and longtime Diocesan Disaster Coordinator.

“The Diocese of Texas, unfortunately, is very experienced in responding to disasters like these, having been through everything from Hurricane Ike in Galveston to the wildfires in Bastrop,” said Katie Mears, Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program. “The diocese brings so many gifts to this response: an experienced and highly capable diocesan disaster coordinator, a trained network of volunteers, a wealth of knowledge and relationships they've developed in past disasters and a robust network of churches and ministries with excellent ties to the community. As always, we stand with our partners as they work through the response and recovery process, and we pray for them and their families and the communities they work in."

Please pray for people impacted by these recent events, and for those who are providing urgently needed care and assistance.

Bulletin inserts are available in order to raise awareness and support for Episcopal Relief & Development’s disaster response efforts in Ecuador and Texas:

  • Half-page English (PDF) (JPG)
  • Half-page Espanol (PDF) (JPG)

To support Episcopal Relief & Development’s responses in Ecuador and Texas, please donate to the International Disaster Response Fund or the US Disaster Response Fund, respectively.


Episcopal Relief & Development Press ReleaseMarch 17, 2016

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the response efforts of the Episcopal dioceses of Louisiana and Western Louisiana, following storms that knocked out power and caused widespread flooding across the state. Both dioceses are working through local churches and community ministries to care for vulnerable people and assist with needs such as food, fuel, temporary housing and supplies to clean and repair damaged homes and other property.

“The churches in Louisiana and Western Louisiana have been incredibly resourceful and thoughtful about assembling their flood responses,” said Katie Mears, Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program. “They have done a fantastic job of identifying where they have local connections or community resources that can be used to assist people in need.”

The early March storm system began in the Gulf of Mexico and caused a series of tornadoes in Texas before moving east and settling over northern Louisiana, where it dumped up to 24 inches of rain over a five-day period. In southern Louisiana, the area north of Lake Ponchartrain received between 12 and 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours over March 10-11. Flash flooding was widespread, and rivers reached 10-20 feet above flood stage, swamping areas as far as a mile on either side and damaging vehicles and property. Thousands of people evacuated or were rescued from their homes, often by boat as roads became impassable. At least six people died across the region due to the storms.

In the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, congregations in Hammond, Covington and Bogalusa are leveraging ministries, relationships and community resources to aid those in need. In Hammond, Grace Memorial Episcopal Church’s ongoing ministry with Meals on Wheels enabled quick assessment of 30 elderly households, and support from Episcopal Relief & Development enabled the church to provide tarps and other materials to prevent further home damage. Christ Church in Covington is able to offer assistance and referrals to community services because of their connections through programs that serve at-risk children. St. Matthew’s in Bogalusa has mobilized members with deep community relationships to help assemble a list of families with outstanding needs, in order to supply gift cards for food, fuel and repairs. Christ Church is also working with the Bogalusa paper mill’s employee assistance coordinator to identify additional families in need of temporary housing and other aid.

“We have churches throughout the flooded area – active, engaged congregations with good leadership,” said Deacon Elaine Clements, Disaster Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. “The new senior warden of St. Matthew’s is an attorney in town who has been working with the mayor’s office on rescue and relief, and the congregation in Hammond has a member who is a social worker and is connected to community organizations. It’s hard to overstate how vital our members and relationships are in disaster response.”

In the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, church leaders have aided local officials by assessing the needs of residents around their parishes. The primary needs are for cleaning and repair supplies, as well as temporary housing for those whose homes are not currently livable. Day shelters for homeless individuals in Shreveport and Monroe, which are supported by local Episcopal churches, are able to assist those who are temporarily without housing, as well as provide outreach to regular clients who may be experiencing greater vulnerability due to the storm. Stephen’s Ministries in several congregations are able to assist displaced people with emotional support and pastoral care.

“Our clergy and parishioners have been incredibly helpful in communicating and coordinating with local government and disaster response agencies,” said Deacon Lois Maberry, Disaster Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana. “This has allowed individuals to be directed to community resources that are offering aid, helping them to cope with this tragedy.”

Episcopal Relief & Development will continue to work with dioceses across the impacted region to assess how church resources and connections can be leveraged to aid those most vulnerable.

Please pray for people impacted by these most recent storms, and for those who are providing urgently needed care and assistance. To support Episcopal Relief & Development’s response, please donate to the US Disaster Response Fund.

For over 75 years, Episcopal Relief & Development has served as a compassionate response to human suffering in the world. The agency works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs, using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, it works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities create long-term development strategies and rebuild after disasters.


Episcopal Relief & Development Web StatementMarch 14, 2016

Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the two Episcopal dioceses in Louisiana and is reaching out to several more across the region, following severe weather that caused tornadoes and flooding from Texas to Tennessee. Storms began on March 7 and moved east, deluging some parts of Louisiana with 24 inches of rain over a five-day period and causing record floods in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

Reports on March 14 indicate that approximately 5,000 homes have been damaged in Louisiana, but that large areas of the state have not been able to fully assess the situation due to ongoing emergency response efforts. A disaster declaration was issued for parts of northern Louisiana, and National Guard troops have been mobilized to aid with rescue efforts.

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the dioceses of Louisiana and Western Louisiana as they respond in affected areas, working through local churches and ministries to meet the needs of vulnerable residents.

Please pray for all those impacted by severe weather this past week, and for first responders and volunteers who are working to rescue those in danger and care for people in need.

To support Episcopal Relief & Development’s response to these storms, please donate to the US Disaster Response Fund.

Prayer for Preparedness and Response 

O God, our times are in your hand. In the midst of uncertainty lead us by your never-failing grace as we seek to be agents of healing and hope.  Walk with us through difficult times; watch over us in danger; and give to us a spirit of love and compassion for those who suffer and mourn. And finally remind us that you have promised never to leave us so that even in the valley of the shadow of death your love may be felt, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.


— The Rev. Lyndon Harris, from the Episcopal Diocese of New York disaster preparedness plan