September 18, 2008 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 125 Number 32

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Tropical Storm Fay stalls in Cape Canaveral; Disaster Relief at work in Barefoot Bay


Photo by Joni B. Hannigan

In Jacksonville Wednesday, the Florida Baptist Convention closed its building early to prepare for what might be a continuation of floodwaters unleashed by Tropical Storm Fay which is moving up the coast towards Northeast Florida. The storm, not expected to become a hurricane, stalled at Cape Canaveral Wednesday afternoon, but is still slowly heading up the coast towards Jacksonville where its center is expected to reach Flagler Beach by Thursday at dawn.

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JACKSONVILLE (FBW)-After rushing the Florida Keys Monday night and making a second Florida landfall at 5 a.m Tuesday south of Naples, Tropical Storm Fay finally made it to the Atlantic coast Wednesday but has stalled in the Cape Canaveral area, lowering the chance it will be become a hurricane when it tracks through northeast Florida.

Despite mostly widespread flooding and power outages in South Florida Tuesday and Wednesday, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief workers were beginning to respond Wednesday afternoon to damage left by a dangerous tornado and high winds that tore through 30 homes in the Barefoot Bay community.

Gary Gates, director of missions for the Brevard Baptist Association, told Florida Baptist Witness both of the association's Disaster Relief trailers would be staffed with 10-15 trained volunteers who will help remove tree limbs and aluminum strewn across the neighborhood devastated by the tornado, and repair roofs with tarps and plywood.

"We always have a time of prayer with the people who own the homes and witness of God's love to them," Gates said, talking on the phone from his own home where he said the water on the street had been rising steadily for about 24-hours.

The National Weather Service in Melbourne has characterized the event as historic, according to a petition sent by Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist Wednesday evening to President Bush requesting an emergency declaration for the entire state. Rainfall totals in excess of 30 inches are now forecast for the southern half of Brevard County, the request reads.

The Florida Baptist Convention reported clean-up crews led by Duke King of Central Baptist Church in Melbourne were in Barefoot Bay along with Larry Alloway, regional disaster relief coordinator and Terry Ryan, a contract employee who brought resources including roofing materials. Teams from the Brevard Association will be assisted by the Lake and Treasure Coast associations, the convention reported.

Fritz Wilson, director of the Florida Baptist Convention's Disaster Relief and Recovery Department, met with Red Cross officials Wednesday, according to a convention news release, and Wilson said there is a possibility churches may open feeding stations for those who volunteer and those affected by the storm.

Further up the coast, where heavy rain began falling early Wednesday, Dennis Belz, director of missions for the Halifax Baptist Association, said at least one church was being used to shelter people from the storm.

Spruce Creek Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, in a wooded area two miles west of Interstate 95, opened as a shelter and would remain open until the floodwaters subside, Belz told the Witness.

"Everybody seems to be doing all right," Belz said. "The wind is stronger today than it was yesterday, but it's still down south of us."

Photo by Joni B. Hannigan

In Jacksonville Beach Wednesday morning, clouds gather and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean churn in preparation for Tropical Storm Fay which is moving up the coast slowly and expected to meander ashore just before dawn at Flagler Beach Thursday.

David Garrett, director of missions for the Jacksonville Baptist Association, said the churches in Jacksonville are experienced in handling storms and well-trained about what to do.

Knowing exactly how to prepare for a storm which can cause tree limbs to scatter, tornados to flurry, and which can change course on a dime, can be elusive, he admitted.

"You don't know which limb is going to knock out which power line," Garrett said. "And it may not be a big event, but all it takes is one limb to knock out one power line and you don't know which area of town is down."

Recalling Florida's historic hurricane season in 2004 when there were four named hurricanes in the span of six weeks- Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan, - Garrett said most of our churches know what to expect now.

"The key is understanding what could happen and be prepared just in case," Garrett said.

Hurricane experts expect Fay to drift up Florida’s east coast Wednesday afternoon, with a possible additional landfall near Flagler Beach Thursday morning. A hurricane watch for the region has been canceled, but a tropical storm warning and flood watch remain.

Some churches have cancelled mid-week services and other events, including First Baptist Church in Orlando and First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Disaster Relief leaders, according to the convention release, will continue to work with local officials and the State Emergency Operations Center to monitor the situation across the state.

The Florida Baptist Convention building is closed through Fri., Aug. 22.