Samaritan’s Purse helps with storm clean up
Although Sandy was no longer classified as a hurricane when it made landfall Monday, its effects were no less devastating as a major storm.
More than 6 million people lost power, homes and businesses flooded and travel grinded to a halt as the wind and water overwhelmed the cities.
“Make no mistake about it. This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst we have ever experienced,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told Reuters.
With residents just beginning to imagine the recovery, Samaritan’s Purse crews set out from North Wilkesboro on Tuesday morning with minds set on neighbors to the north.
The efforts technically began Monday, when five program managers tailed the storm to the north.
Those managers will be responsible for evaluating which areas are suffering the most need when the storm subsides, said Luther Harrison, vice president of North American ministries for Samaritan’s Purse.
By Tuesday, those managers were stationed in and near Cape May, N.J.; Wayne, N.J.; Little Ferry, N.J.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and near the Delaware and Maryland line, Harrison said.
While they assessed the damage, three Samaritan’s Purse tractor-trailers left North Wilkesboro around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to head toward the damage.
Each trailer is equipped with about 20 chain saws, power tools, hand tools, ladders, generators and tarps, ready to be used for whatever needs the volunteers find, Harrison said.
“It covered such a vast amount of land — almost 500 miles — so a lot of states have been affected,” Harrison said. “We cannot be everywhere, but where we are, we want to do the best quality work we can.”
In addition to cutting trees, covering roofs and pumping water out of flooded homes, the volunteers and staff will work to respond to residents’ emotional and spiritual needs, Harrison said. The Christian relief organization, headed by Franklin Graham, prays with homeowners and works to share God’s love through their relief work.
“They’re picking up pieces that they’ve worked hard for all those years,” he said. “It’s not about the house, it’s just about helping them. It helps them with healing and providing closure.”
There’s plenty of work to be done. In New York, the New York Stock Exchange closed Monday and Tuesday, along with businesses throughout the city.
In anticipation of the storm, Consolidated Edison power company preemptively shut down power to sections of Lower Manhattan on Monday evening, and unplanned failures knocked out power to hundreds of thousands more later in the night.
NYU’s Langone Medical Center had to evacuate patients — including some babies and adults on ventilators — after its backup power system failed Monday night.
Travel was impossible as the storm rolled in. Flights were cancelled throughout the region, and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel flooded entirely, along with seven subway tunnels, according to news reports.
Photographs of the scene showed cars completely submerged, and cabs were ordered off the streets Monday night.
Even outside the largest cities, flooding and fallen trees were widespread.
At least 16 people had died as a result of the storm as of Tuesday.
Although the relief efforts will be challenging, Samaritan’s Purse is used to the pace.
This year alone, about 10,000 volunteers have served in 19 disaster responses, Harrison said. Last year, more than double that number volunteered.
Anyone interested in donating financially or with their time and prayers can find more information at samaritanspurse.org.
“As long as there are people asking for assistance, that usually mandates how long we stay,” Harrison said.