Hurricane leaves Louisiana thankful for less impact

by Brian Blackwell & Philip Timothy/Baptist Message, posted Tuesday, July 16, 2019 (one month ago)

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- The devastation from Hurricane Barry was less than anticipated in Louisiana based on forecasts, but for those who sustained damage it does not lessen the impact they felt.

Several Louisiana Baptist churches reported that facilities suffered from floodwaters and winds as Barry subsequently trekked through the state as a tropical storm and then a tropical depression.

In places the storm dumped more than 20 inches of rain and produced sustained winds of 75 mph with even higher gusts.

As of July 15, reports had been received from four congregations that experienced damage:

-- Mechanicville Emmanuel Baptist Church in Houma lost portions of its roof, windows were broken, cemetery fencing was lost and a gazebo damaged.

-- Immanuel Baptist Church in Morgan City experienced roof and siding damage and multiple fallen trees.

-- First Baptist Church in Franklin lost siding and had begun removing tree limbs downed by winds.

-- Trinity Baptist Church in New Iberia reported damage to the roof and steeple.

Gibbie McMillan, disaster relief coordinator for Louisiana Baptists, said a joint response team from the Eastern Louisiana and Washington Baptist Associations had been deployed to make roof repairs to Mechanicville Emmanuel Baptist Church. Meanwhile, a team of Baptist Collegiate Ministry students was in Moss Bluff, which received 15 inches of rain since Sunday afternoon, helping homeowners with cleanup and restoration.

Before Barry made landfall on Saturday, July 13, in Intracoastal City, La., some weather sources projected up to 25 inches of rainfall in parts of the state. But many areas experienced much less, mostly due to dry air from the north that kept Barry disorganized, according to multiple meteorological reports.

Steve Horn, executive director for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, told the Baptist Message he was convinced that prayer made a difference.

"We wake up a thankful people this morning," Horn said. "Certainly, we sympathize with our brothers and sisters who are still dealing with flooding rains this morning. We continue to pray that God will protect life and property. We are in communication with people around the state to see how we might best assist them to minister to their communities.

"We also take our stand on God's Word as in places such as James 5:16," Horn said: "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

Horn emphasized that "nothing is too difficult for God" who can do all things. "Whether it is to destroy a storm or deliver us from the destruction of a storm, God is able," he said.

John Hebert, Louisiana Baptists' missions and ministry director who oversees disaster relief operations, echoed Horn's praise to God for minimizing the effects of Barry.

"We are blessed to have escaped this disaster," Hebert said. "Thanks to the Lord for His hand of protection.

"Churches in Bayou, Gulf Coast and Evangeline Associations seemed to be effected more than others, with Bayou Association's Mechanicville Emmanuel Baptist Church being the worst," Hebert said. "Though we knew this storm was not real organized and barely hurricane strength, there is always potential for severe damage due to flooding and accompanying tornadic activity."

Barry, as a tropical depression, was located 70 miles west-northwest of Little Rock, Ark., as of Monday at 10 a.m., but still was producing heavy rainfall in parts of southwest and central Louisiana. As of today (July 16), its remnants were moving across Missouri.

The National Weather Service in Lake Charles issued flash flood warnings for nine parishes on July 15: northwestern Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles and Beauregard parishes; central Calcasieu and Evangeline parishes; northern Jefferson Davis and St. Landry parishes; and southeastern Rapides Parish.

Oakdale and Oberlin in Allen Parish have both received the largest accumulations of water and are facing serious flooding, according to the weather service. Radar and gauge measurements indicate some areas in the parish had received nearly 17 inches of rain, with widespread totals of 6 to 12 inches of rain since Sunday evening.

Moreauville in Avoyelles Parish "has some really serious flooding right now, which is affecting a lot of people," Jacob Crawford, director of missions for the Louisiana Baptist Association, reported. "It is a miracle there has not been more flooding than what there is right now."

Crawford noted that the mission center in Simmesport had some minor flooding and church planter Reggie Arvie at St. James Baptist Church in Bunkie had some flooding in his home.

Gil Arthur, pastor of the First Baptist Church in DeQuincy in Calcasieu Parish, told the Baptist Message, "Last night (July 15) was one of the worst nights I have experienced with the rain, wind, lightning and thunder but we are doing well here. As far as I know by God's grace, we have been spared.

"We have folks ready to go out and help, but so far no one has requested assistance," Arthur said. "The water is high, but none of our members have reported flooding in their houses. There is no flooding at the church."

Jerry Johnson, director of missions for the Mt. Olive Baptist Association in Allen Parish, told the Message, "I sent a text to all pastors in Mt. Olive to check on them and none have responded back so I'm assuming all is good with them."

Kevin West, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish, told the Message he was unable to reach the church property because roads into the city were blocked. However, Garland Foreman, publisher of the Ville Platte Gazette newspaper, said a bayou that runs by the church had overflowed its banks, and water was around the church.

Brian Blackwell and Philip Timothy are the staff writer and managing editor, respectively, for the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
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