After Category 3 Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Keaton Beach on Wednesday (Aug. 30), Florida Baptist Disaster Relief leaders quickly transitioned to “active status,” as they begin mobilizing and responding to those impacted by the storm.
Keaton Beach, with a population of about 13,000, is located in the Big Bend area of Florida, where the peninsula merges into the Panhandle. The Big Bend region is home to woods, marshes, nature preserves and rural communities. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia “an unprecedented event” as the most powerful storm in recorded history to hit the Big Bend region.
Significant flooding and strong winds wreaked havoc not only in Keaton Beach but also throughout a large swath of Florida’s Gulf Coast and have brought damage and flooding to parts of Georgia and South Carolina. Several states are ready to respond as needed with Southern Baptist volunteers.
A swift water rescue team from North Carolina was on the ground in Florida before the hurricane made landfall.
Hurricane Idalia is the second major storm to impact Florida in less than 12 months. On Sept. 28, 2022, Category 4 Hurricane Ian made landfall and unleashed its fury in southwestern Florida, with some communities still recovering from the devastation today.
Bringing ‘help, healing and hope’
Even with two back-to-back major hurricanes hitting the Sunshine State, volunteers and local churches are ready to serve and take the gospel to those in need, said David Coggins, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief director.
Already, even on the day that Hurricane Idalia made landfall, Coggins said, “We are seeing a significant number of our volunteers responding and ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus and bring help, healing and hope those who are hurting from this hurricane.”
Coggins is leading teams to mobilize as roads become safe and passable. He is working in concert with the State Emergency Operations Center as well as with other partners in relief efforts, including Disaster Relief teams from other Southern Baptist state conventions, Southern Baptists’ Send Relief, American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and first responders.
“We are working with our vendors at the State Emergency Operations Center to get all of the needed resources in order to be prepared to minister to the impacted communities,” he said.
Coggins stated that volunteers will partner with Florida Baptist churches so that the congregations can help people and share God’s love in their communities.
“We have been communicating with churches in Perry, Cross City, Live Oak and others where public feeding and cleanup efforts will be taking place.”
Ways to help
For more information on how you can help, check with your church, association or state Baptist convention to find out how they are contributing to ongoing relief efforts related to Hurricane Idalia, your state and beyond. To contact your state convention for more information, click here. Or, for more information about Send Relief, click here.