Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 10). Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Send Relief, the North American Mission Board’s compassion ministry arm, are preparing a response to help people affected by the storm. Photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

By Brandon Elrod

ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Officials expect Hurricane Michael to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 10) as a Category 3 storm. The hurricane’s storm surge and wind will pummel large portions of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Damage and power outages are expected to extend through Georgia, potentially reaching into the Carolinas.

Current models indicate that the storm will make landfall just east of Panama City, Fla.

Florida governor Rick Scott warned that the storm could be “the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades. This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous.” Gov. Scott has declared a state of emergency in more than thirty counties.

Nathan Deal, Georgia’s governor, declared a state of emergency for 92 counties. In a statement, Gov. Deal announced, “The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael. In light of the storm’s forecasted track, I encourage Georgians in the affected counties to be prepared and remain vigilant.”

Sam Porter, the national director for disaster relief with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), has been coordinating with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) directors across the Southeast and NAMB’s Send Relief leadership ahead of landfall.

“This year is beginning to look more like our 2017 hurricane response,” Porter said. “The storms are simply happening a month later than they did last year. We’ve had Florence in North Carolina. Now three weeks later, we’ve got Hurricane Michael taking aim at Florida and Georgia.”

Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm, will be shipping resources from its ministry center in Appalachia as they did in preparation for Hurricane Florence. SBDR volunteers and local churches will distribute those supplies, as well as feeding and ministering to people in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

Unlike Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, Michael is not expected to levy the same flooding risk outside of the initial storm surge as the hurricane is predicted to move fairly quickly through Florida and into Georgia.

Florence remained over North and South Carolina after making landfall, dropping feet of rain in some regions, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates a moderate risk of flash flooding in Florida and South Georgia.

Instead, a wider area will likely be affected by wind damage and power outages as Michael buzzes through the South.

Southern Baptists have been hard at work since Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on September 14. That major response—along with SBDR responses to wildfires out West, major flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the Heartland—has Porter warning Southern Baptists against the potential for “compassion fatigue.”

With the spate of hurricanes and other natural disasters, the tendency is for people to lose their sensitivity to the news of damage, flooding and homelessness.

“There’s an extreme urgency to call Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and churches to be faithful in the response,” Porter said. “There are still thousands of people needing help who have not received it yet.”

“The Lord calls us to be compassionate every day of our lives. ‘Do not be weary in well-doing,’” Porter said, paraphrasing Galatians 6:9.

Since Hurricane Florence made landfall, SBDR has prepared over 1.1 million meals, cleaned over a thousand yards and completed flood cleanup on over 240 homes.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. The North American Mission Board provides national coordination and assistance in larger, multi-state responses.

To donate funds or find ways to volunteer with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit namb.net/hurricane-relief.

Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.