Episcopal Relief & Development Responds to Hurricane Irma


September 19, 2017press-release-badge-1

Episcopal Relief & Development Provides Emergency Assistance in Georgia and Florida after Hurricane Irma

Episcopal Relief & Development is providing emergency assistance in affected dioceses in Georgia and Florida, while continuing to support partners in the Caribbean in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 storm and the second major storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, made landfall in Florida on September 10th after devastating parts of the Caribbean, including the Virgin Islands, Haiti and Puerto Rico. The storm caused massive destruction and left thousands without power and water. More than 80 deaths have been reported.

In partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, Episcopal Relief & Development is providing critical support to low income residents as well as other vulnerable groups, including children, youth, seniors and those with special needs, living in Camden, Glynn, McIntosh and Chatham counties. Residents will receive gift cards to help purchase food, clothing, bedding, medical supplies, gas for transportation and materials for repairs and rebuilding. Housing and rental assistance are also being given to those displaced by the storm while others will receive building supplies and tools, moving supplies, transportation and tarps. In addition, the diocese is supporting general cleanup efforts with local crews and coordinating the securing and moving of property with local officials, community leaders and volunteers.

The Diocese of Georgia posted a message from the bishop on its website. “We’re thankful to Episcopal Relief & Development for their rapid response to our urgent need for funds to help those who have crucial needs in our communities,” said Bishop Scott Anson Benhase of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. “The funds they’ve provided, along with funds given locally, will allow us ‘love our neighbor’ in very concrete and practical ways. Love is an action verb, not merely a state of being. We’re striving to make our love active.”

Episcopal Relief & Development is also working with the Episcopal Diocese of Florida through an existing ministry within the diocese, Church Without Walls, to provide tents, bedding, clothing and personal items for 150 homeless individuals who lost their belongings in the storm. Located in Jacksonville, Church Without Walls reaches people through weekly outdoor prayer and worship services that welcome all to share their unique gifts in community.

Through the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, the organization is offering gift cards, cleanup supplies and shelter for impacted residents and disaster recovery crews. The diocese is planning to provide space for a recovery event to include FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross, opening a shelter for those who have been displaced by the storm and offering food, power and Wi-Fi to the local community on a daily basis.

Thousands were left homeless and with few resources within communities that are part of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. Considered one of the most culturally diverse dioceses within the Episcopal Church, the diocese includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and covers a population from the wealthy to the homeless to migrant workers. The diocese has a strong outreach component including 40 ministries led by Episcopal Charities in Southeast Florida. In partnership with the Diocese of Southeast Florida, Episcopal Relief & Development is supplying support for food, bedding, hygiene items and other critical items for vulnerable families, the homeless, seniors, youth and children.

“Our daily communications with impacted dioceses have been essential to assessing local needs and how best to help our partners in the initial relief phase,” notes Katie Mears, Director of the US Disaster Team. “We have early check-in calls which enables us to stay on top of any new developments or challenges.”

In the Caribbean, Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting relief efforts in Puerto Rico by partnering with the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico to provide temporary housing, medical care, food and meal delivery as well as other support. While needs assessments are still underway in the Caribbean, staff are coordinating with ecumenical and humanitarian partners to get emergency supplies into the Virgin Islands.

Two other hurricanes are on the horizon this week. Hurricane Maria, which continues to gain in strength, is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 storm moving towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It is expected to make landfall with powerful winds and flooding within the next 24 hours. Residents are being warned to remove debris which can turn into projectiles due to heavy winds. The National Hurricane Center is advising that rainfall could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. Also, Hurricane Jose, downgraded to a tropical storm, is expected to hit the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts with heavy winds, rain and minor to moderate coastal flooding beginning this evening.

“We are very concerned about Hurricane Maria,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “These storms can be unpredictable and in light of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, this storm has the potential to cause even more destruction and harm. Please continue to pray for people impacted by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and US, and for all those in the path of Hurricane Maria.”

Contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund will help support church and other local partners as they provide critical emergency assistance to those most in need.

For the most recent bulletin inserts and other Hurricane Irma resources, visit episcopalrelief.org/irma.

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.


September 14, 2017press-release-badge-1
 

Episcopal Relief & Development Responds to Urgent Needs in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting emergency relief efforts in Culebra and Vieques, two islands in Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Irma. In partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico, the organization is providing approximately 600 people with temporary housing, medical care, food and meal delivery, clothing, home repairs, water and first aid supplies.

“These islands are among the most highly impacted by Hurricane Irma,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “We’re very concerned about the most vulnerable people, especially the older population, and families with small children.”

The island of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit from Irma. However, thousands are still without power, and this may continue in the weeks and months ahead, particularly in more remote areas. Culebra and Vieques, located off the east coast of Puerto Rico, were the hardest hit; the governor of Puerto Rico has declared both islands as disaster areas. Roughly 30 to 35 homes were badly damaged and destroyed in Culebra, which has an estimated population of 1,800. Many families live in wooden or partially wooden homes, which left them most vulnerable to the powerful winds and rains of the storm. Power systems as well as cell and internet services are down. Most of the population remains without running water and with limited food supplies.

Throughout the Caribbean and Florida, millions are also without power, with flooded streets and homes, roads and farmland destroyed. Some areas of Georgia remain without power. In Florida, residents are slowly returning to their homes after mandatory evacuation orders were lifted in many areas. Several Irma-impacted Episcopal dioceses are contacting clergy and members through AlertMedia, a text-based platform, and through telephone calls.

Rivers continue to rise in some parts of Florida which means that assessments have been postponed until the affected dioceses throughout the state are out of danger. Church partners are monitoring the situation locally.

“Right now, dioceses in the impacted areas are assessing as best they can safely,” said Katie Mears, Director of the US Disaster Program. “Many of the leaders in the most impacted communities evacuated to other states which means that assessments will take time as bridges open and they can travel back home. We continue to be in touch with all US dioceses in Irma's path, convening a daily call with prayer and information sharing between dioceses. Some churches are sheltering and others have already begun feeding ministries.”

In Haiti, extensive damage to roads, homes and agriculture threaten the island’s economy as damage is being assessed there as well as in the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands. So far, at least 68 deaths have been reported in the Caribbean and Florida.

“We are just in the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season and the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey has been staggering,” noted Nelson. “The consequences of changing climates are something we shouldn’t underestimate and this causes us to look at future storms in much different ways with respect to disaster preparedness, relief and recovery.”

Contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund will help support church and other local partners as they provide critical emergency assistance to those most in need in the weeks and months ahead.

For the most recent bulletin inserts and other Hurricane Irma resources, visit episcopalrelief.org/irma.

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.


September 11, 2017web-statement-badge-1
 
Hurricane Irma Devastates Florida and the Caribbean
 

Hurricane Irma, now downgraded to a tropical storm, made landfall in Florida on Sunday after cutting a devastating path through the Caribbean. This is the second devastating storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, following Harvey which hit Texas two weeks ago. Irma and Harvey, both Category 4 storms when they hit the US, set a record as the only two Atlantic hurricanes of this magnitude to make landfall in the continental US during the same year.

Irma, a powerful 400 mile wide storm, turned the streets of Miami and other cities into rivers. Two construction cranes collapsed in Miami as a result of high winds. The Florida Keys, a small chain of low lying islands connected by bridges, was the hardest hit with homes, vehicles and roads left underwater. According to FEMA, over six million people throughout Florida are without power and some may be without power for weeks. Six deaths have been reported in Florida with at least 37 deaths reported in the Caribbean.

“Communications remain a challenge for our partners,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “While cell service is available in some areas, there are still major power issues in both Florida and the Caribbean.”

For safety reasons, impacted dioceses will not be able to assess property damage in their communities for at least several days. “Safety is paramount and we urge all to remain sheltered until local authorities advise that it is safe to venture outside before assessments begin,” continued Nelson.

Katie Mears, Director of the US Disaster Program, is in regular communication with dioceses in Florida, Georgia and the Gulf Coast. AlertMedia, a text based program, has helped select diocesan leaders and staff contact and share information within their dioceses.

“I'm holding all those in the impacted area in my prayers, and I'm confident in the leadership skills in these congregations and dioceses. They have responded to disasters for many years, and have learned from those experiences,” said Mears.

“We have been working with the dioceses in Florida and in other higher hazard areas of the country for several years, not only to equip the individual dioceses, but to strengthen the relationships between the dioceses,” she continued. “Our team has convened quarterly calls for the region and daily calls since last Thursday, and moving forward, allowing dioceses to support each other and get information from us quickly and efficiently.”

Irma is not over yet. Dangerous conditions exist throughout Florida including heavy winds, storm surges, tornado warnings, flooded roads and downed power lines. The National Hurricane Center reports that Irma would bring “life threatening wind impacts to much of Florida regardless of the exact track of the center.” As Irma moves up the coast to Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas later today, it is possible to get up to 25 inches of rain.

Before reaching Florida, Irma caused major destruction and damage throughout the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm. Haiti was spared a direct hit but Irma’s impact has been devastating to its infrastructure, destroying homes, farmland and the roads connecting smaller communities with larger cities.

Extensive damage from Hurricane Irma devastated most of the US Virgin Islands with four deaths reported. In the Dominican Republic, more than 2,000 homes were damaged and while Puerto Rico skirted a direct hit, thousands of people are without water, power, and cell phone service which presents communications issues there.

“Please pray for the many who have been impacted,” said Nelson. “We are prepared, as we always have been, to support those who need our help the most.”

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season ends on November 30th with the National Weather Service predicting two to five major hurricanes this season. Hurricane Jose may pose a threat to the East Coast but its path is uncertain. High surf and rip currents may affect parts of the northeast Caribbean and the eastern coast of the US in the coming weeks.

Contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund will help support church and other local partners as they provide critical emergency assistance to those most in need in weeks and days ahead.

Prayer for Those Affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

We stand with you, but not only we. The Lord who sacrificed His life for us all and was raised from the dead is with you. Remember that we are your brothers and sisters, and we’re in this together. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you and give you His peace, this day, and forever more. Amen.

— Presiding Bishop Michael Curry


September 8, 2017web-statement-badge-1

Hurricane Irma Impacts Caribbean, Florida Braces for Storm
 
Hurricane Irma, now downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 storm, is still considered extremely dangerous as it continues to move through the Caribbean, hovering over Cuba and the Bahamas, on its projected path to Florida this weekend. Record breaking winds, storm surges, flooding and heavy rains have devastated smaller islands, in addition to severely impacting parts of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. At least 12 deaths and dozens of injuries have been reported.
 

 “We have been in regular contact with our partners in the affected areas as well as those in the path of Hurricane Irma,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “Even as we face enormous communication challenges in some areas, we know our church partners have a deep presence in their communities which allows them to quickly and effectively respond and care for people. We are supporting them in this critical work.”

Irma battered Puerto Rico on Wednesday, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and thousands without water and cell phone service. Trees and power lines are down with hospitals operating on generators. Although spared a direct hit, significant storm damage has been reported in Haiti, with homes completely underwater or destroyed. In the Dominican Republic, which shares an island with Haiti, reports indicate that several thousand homes have been damaged or destroyed with thousands of residents evacuated from their homes. One of two bridges connecting Haiti with the Dominican Republic has collapsed, complicating the delivery of emergency supplies.

According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Irma is expected to hit Florida on Sunday morning and the mid-Atlantic states early next week. Potential threats include heavy rains, flooding, storm surges and isolated tornadoes. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in the Florida Keys and other areas in anticipation of Irma, the second major storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have declared states of emergency.

The National Weather Service has also issued advisories for Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Katia. Jose has strengthened to a dangerous Category 4 storm, according to the the National Hurricane Center, and is predicted to threaten the islands already hit by Irma. Hurricane Katia, currently a Category 2 hurricane, is gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico and is predicted to make landfall in Mexico on Saturday. A powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico just before midnight on Thursday, creating extensive damage in the affected areas; at least 30 deaths have been reported.

Please continue to pray for communities affected by these recent disasters.

Contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund will help support church and other local partners as they provide critical emergency assistance to those most in need in the weeks and months ahead.

Excerpt from A Prayer for An Approaching Hurricane

Creator God, we ask you to calm the wind and the waves of the approaching hurricane, and spare those in its path from harm. Help those who are in its way to reach safety. Open our hearts in generosity to all who need help in the coming days. In all things and in all times, help us to remember that even when life seems dark and stormy, you are in the boat with us, guiding us to safety. Amen.

— A Prayer Offered by The Reverend James Martin, S.J.


September 7, 2017web-statement-badge-1

Preparing for the Impact of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma, the second major storm of the 2017 hurricane season, hit several islands in the Caribbean on Wednesday with record breaking winds of 185 miles per hour. Following the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey, the storm has caused 10 deaths to date.

A Category 5 hurricane and one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, Irma battered the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico with hurricane force winds, torrential rain and flooding, leaving over 70% of Puerto Rico without power and some without water. It is expected to reach Cuba and the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti Thursday and Friday, eventually approaching Florida this weekend.

“Despite power outages and communications challenges in some places, we are in regular contact with our church partners in the Caribbean and Florida and will respond to emergency needs in the affected areas,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “On the heels of Hurricane Harvey, Irma has the potential to be catastrophic. Our prayers remain with all those in the path of this storm.”

Florida is bracing for Hurricane Irma with a state of emergency declared and mandatory evacuations ordered, including in the Florida Keys. According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to make landfall in Florida on late Saturday evening or early Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, with the potential to cause disastrous flooding.

Several dioceses in Florida have implemented AlertMedia, a text based communication platform, with their clergy and congregations. After Hurricane Harvey, Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster team, diocesan leaders and staff in the impacted areas were able to successfully use this tool to share news and information, verify the safety of their members, and begin to share needs in their communities.

Please pray for all of those impacted by Hurricane Irma and for people in the path in the storm.

A Prayer for Those in the Path of Hurricane Irma

Oh, God of Heaven and Earth, our God who carries our lives and the lives of our whole community in your hands, be with us in the peril of Hurricane Irma. Help us to place our anxieties and fears into those same caring hands, knowing in faith that your will for us is life and everlasting good. Send your holy angels to watch over us and guard us. May they spread their holy wings to give us shelter against the storm. For you alone, O God, are all god, all live, all love, and that love is for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

— A Prayer Offered by the Reverend Thomas Weitzel, adapted


September 5, 2017web-statement-badge-1

Prayer for Those in the Path of Hurricane Irma

Episcopal Relief & Development encourages prayers for communities in the Caribbean and US that are preparing for the impact of Hurricane Irma. According to The National Hurricane Center, the Category 5 storm is forecast to hit the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico with strong winds and heavy rainfall beginning on Wednesday, September 6, and is projected to reach Florida by the weekend. Staff has contacted dioceses in areas predicted to be impacted by the storm.

The organization stands ready to respond to communities who may face heavy rain, high winds and major flooding.

Please pray for those in the path of Hurricane Irma and for first responders who will risk their safety to help others potentially in harm’s way.

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


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.

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