Ice storm provides ministry opportunity
The old real estate adage—Location, location, location—seemed to hold true for damage caused by the Jan. 28-30 ice storm that struck Oklahoma, said Sam Porter, disaster relief director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Porter said he believes the damage this time around wasn’t as severe as the ice storm of 2007 simply because of where the ice and snow hit the Sooner State the hardest. Three years ago, the wooded eastern and northeastern parts of the state bore the brunt of the damage, while the state’s southern plains were the target this year.
“In southwestern Oklahoma, there isn’t anything for power poles to lean on except for wheat stubble,” Porter explained. “So, those poles came crashing down, causing widespread power outages. Three years ago, trees bore the brunt of the damage.”
At the height of the storm—around 9:30 a.m., Jan. 29— the Oklahoma Corporation Commission reported nearly 180,000 homes and businesses without power. By Feb. 1, that number had fallen to 78,674.
The storm had been credited with causing seven fatalities, including five persons over the age of 60, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol had reported working 568 storm related crashes, including 120 involving injury since the storm began.
At least 325 injuries related to slips and falls on the ice and snow had been reported statewide as a result of the latest winter storm to hit Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) said Feb. 1. The OSDH also reported 70 injuries from motor vehicle accidents, and 10 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning related to the storm.
As the well-publicized storm neared Oklahoma Jan. 27, Porter pulled out all the stops in getting BGCO disaster relief volunteers in position to respond.
“We have never before activated all of our kitchens at one time in the state,” Porter said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 28. “This may provide Oklahoma Baptists with an unprecedented opportunity for ministry.”
In addition, all of the Convention’s 16 chain saw units were placed on alert and were ready to swing into action once the storm passed through either Friday or Saturday. Porter said officials in neighboring states also offered to provide debris removal teams, if needed.
Assessors now are determining need and prioritizing jobs through an application process, Porter said. Additional help was on the way from New Mexico and Texas.
“The priority, as it always does, falls to those who cannot help themselves in these situations,” he said. “That includes the elderly, widows, those with special needs and single mothers.”
In Lawton, state disaster relief training coordinator Norman Wagoner is coordinating the Baptist response as the incident commander at a command post established at Cameron Church.
To ask for assistance in clearing trees and large limbs from property, call: 405/388-6912, 405/496-1196, 405/443-7583 or 405/415-5261.
As of Feb. 1, Oklahoma had four chain saw teams working in Altus, three in Duncan, two in Lawton and one in Purcell. The other six teams were awaiting assignments, pending assessments.
The BGCO also has set up or helped set up five kitchens across the state at Altus, First; Carnegie Elementary School; the Stephens County Fairgrounds in Duncan; Lawton, Cameron and Lindsay, Calvary, Porter said.
“Those five kitchens are preparing food that is being served locally as well as being transported by the Red Cross and Salvation Army to the surrounding communities of Anadarko, Apache, El Dorado, Elgin, Elmore City, Geronimo, Granite, Hobart, Hollis, Marlow, Medicine Park, Pauls Valley, Purcell, Roosevelt, Rush Springs, Snyder and Tipton,” Porter said.