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As Hurricane Irene continues to churn northward along the Atlantic coast, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network is at work, alerting volunteers and planning how and where to deploy Southern Baptist DR units even before the hurricane slams into the East Coast, reports Mickey Noah for the Baptist Press news service.

Staff members at the North American Mission Board’s disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., are in talks with Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief leadership in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland/Delaware, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, New York and New England, said Bruce Poss, NAMB’s disaster relief coordinator in Alpharetta.

The Southern Baptists have gained a reputation of scrambling to assist in such disasters — responding as quickly as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. However, it’s not a competition, they note. There’s plenty of work for everybody. Also showing up at disasters are Mennonite and Amish volunteers.

The Baptist responders are coordinating with FEMA, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters), notes Noah” 

Incident command locations, feeding sites and feeding capacities are now being determined, Poss said.

Hurricane Irene is projected to be a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds when it makes landfall somewhere along North Carolina’s eastern coast then move up the mid-Atlantic states and to New York and Long Island over the weekend. The season’s first hurricane is moving north at 14 mph, according to The Weather Channel.

Irene is expected to bring 1-2 inches of torrential rainfall per hour, wind gusts over 40 mph, significant coastal flooding, storm surge and possible tornadoes. Heavy rain — beginning in the Carolinas — also could impact western Virginia, western Maryland, central Pennsylvania and central and western New York. Widespread wind damage and power outages also are expected.

An estimated 65 million Americans are in the potential path of Irene. The farther northeast the landfall, the greater the impact on higher-population areas and the greater the estimated financial loss.

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