Hurricane Isaac and late summer storms 2012

September 5, 2012

Chris Winkleblech helps his neighbors Angelina Jordan, 6, and Virginia Jordan (right) evacuate the Forestwood Apartments in the Olde Towne area after Hurricane Isaac passed through Slidell, Louisiana, August 30, 2012. Hurricane Isaac forced evacuations affecting tens of thousands of people in Louisiana and Mississippi. Photo: REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger, courtesy

Chris Winkleblech helps his neighbors Angelina Jordan, 6, and Virginia Jordan (right) evacuate the Forestwood Apartments in the Olde Towne area after Hurricane Isaac passed through Slidell, Louisiana, August 30, 2012. Hurricane Isaac forced evacuations affecting tens of thousands of people in Louisiana and Mississippi. Photo: REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger, courtesy


Hurricane Isaac has left heavy damage behind as it crossed the states of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. While it had only Category One winds, Isaac was a large and wide ranging storm with significant storm surge and extremely heavy rainfall. The remaining moisture from the storm continues to cause intense rainfall in much of the eastern United States.

The storm has been blamed for eight deaths: six in Louisiana and two in Mississippi. At the peak of the storm well over 1 million homes were left without power. Work continues to restore power to more than 100,000 customers still without electricity.  Some tornadoes from the storm were also reported; damage, if any, from those tornadoes is still not known.

Very little information is yet available about the numbers of homes damaged and destroyed. A very early estimate indicates the cost of the storm will be more than $2 billion. The number of people sheltered peaked at approximately 9,000 survivors. Six hundred eighty four people are still in shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi. Many thousands more were sheltered with friends, family and in motels. Many have yet to return to their homes. Mass feeding operations continue to operate in the affected states.

Moderate to major flooding occurred from southeastern Louisiana to the western Florida panhandle.

Damage assessments are underway in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana:

Florida: The most significant damage in the Sunshine State is in Palm Beach County and in Indian River County.

Louisiana: All 64 Parishes in the state have declared a state of emergency. Severe flooding occurred in Plaquemines Parish when an 18-mile stretch of levee was overtopped. Severe flooding occurred in Slidell due to heavy storm surge off of Lake Pontchartrain. Heavy damage also occurred in St John the Baptist Parish and Tammany Parish.  Very preliminary assessments indicate at least 13,000 homes are damaged across Louisiana.

Mississippi: Flooding is widespread across the state, caused by flooding from the heavy rainfall as Isaac moved slowly northward. Counties impacted include Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, Amite, Lincoln, Marion, and Pearl River.

Alabama: Alabama did not initially experience as much damage as other states. Alabama residents are now experiencing heavy rains from the moisture laden air left behind by Isaac.

CWS response:

CWS Disaster Response Specialists are working with state, regional and local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOADs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, and CWS-member denominations and other agencies to determine where material goods are needed.

CWS is also working to determine where long-term recovery committees need financial assistance and training and where CWS denominations can help. CWS will provide material resources, including blankets, hygiene kits and clean-up buckets, school kits, baby kits and blankets as requested.

CWS also will assist communities in developing long-term recovery plans, which will lead to technical and financial support, as possible.

CWS Emergency Response Specialists are actively working with communities in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to answer requests for material goods. The CWS Emergency Response Specialist working with the organizations in Florida is Joann Hale.

The specialist for the Gulf Coast states is Sandra Kennedy-Owes.

In addition, CWS-member communions and affiliated organizations are in place in the affected states and are assisting hurricane survivors. Adventist Community Services is working with emergency managers to assist with donations management and to operate collection centers, multi-agency warehouses, and distribution centers.

Among the responses among CWS-member denominations:

  • Brethren Disaster Ministries is providing children disaster services volunteers. Brethren personnel continue to distribute blankets, clothing packs and personal care kits.
  • The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee has experts in place to assess needs and to develop long term plans for home repair and rebuild.
  • Lutheran Disaster Response is in contact with local affiliates and is making preparations for volunteer deployment.
  • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is operating a control center and is positioning goods.
  • The United Methodist Committee on Relief is supplying clean up materials, hygiene kits and tarps as well as providing debris removal.
  • The Mennonite Disaster Service has personnel on the ground in the threatened states.

In addition, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Episcopal Relief & Development; the United Church of Christ; the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and International Orthodox Christian Charities have their people on standby and will respond when and where needed.

Services that are likely to be provided include debris removal, warehousing and distribution of supplies, emotional and spiritual care, providing personnel for feeding and sheltering operations and volunteer management. When the initial response phase ends CWS and its member communions will assist with the long-term recovery of the communities and the many activities that will be required to rebuild homes, lives and communities.

BUDGET GOAL is $100,000. Funds will be used for processing and shipping material goods, for long-term recovery committee start-up grants and for long term recovery committee training activities.

NOTE: This appeal will be updated as more information becomes available and as the response expands, if needed.

How to help:

Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts around the world may be made online, sent to your denomination, or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.

CONCERNING CLEAN UP BUCKETS: CWS thanks its member communions for the efforts to help restock our warehouses with material goods, such as CWS Clean Up Buckets, Hygiene Kits, Baby Kits and School Kits.  Many people in need will benefit from these resources.  However, the response to Hurricane Isaac will rapidly deplete our supplies, especially of CWS Clean Up Buckets. All efforts to replenish our supplies for future emergencies are as always, greatly appreciated. More information on Clean Up Buckets

During disasters such as this, now is the time to remember that the most important humanitarian donation that an individual can make is cash.  There are already reports of heaps of used clothing piling up. Clothing and other materials that do little to restore the dignity of survivors.  Remember, financial help is best. If you do have supplies that may be of help contact a CWS Emergency Response Specialist to see if the materials can be used and where.

Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.