The people of Catawba County, N.C., are used to getting about four inches of rainfall in July.
On July 27, three times that amount fell from the sky in one hour.
“This is probably going to go down as the worst flood in recorded history for them,” said Al New, manager of deployments and operations for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
The heavy rain overwhelmed storm drains and toppled over creek beds, saturating the western Piedmont towns of Hickory, Conover, Vale and others.
Emergency crews rescued more than a dozen residents from the rising waters. Roads and bridges were washed out, and more than 700 properties were damaged.
Shortly after the waters receded, Al New drove in to assess the damage, along with Samaritan’s Purse.
It’s not uncommon for New to travel thousands of miles for Rapid Response Team deployments across the United States and abroad. This time, the damaged area was practically in his back yard—less than 50 miles from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.
“It’s always nice to be able to help at home,” New said. “Especially those who are uninsured or didn’t have flood insurance—they’re the ones who are probably feeling pretty hopeless.”
Two crisis-trained Rapid Response Team chaplains will be on the ground in Catawba County by Saturday. Al New plans to have four more chaplains deployed by Sunday. They’ll work together to help meet the emotional and spiritual needs of residents who are dealing with flooded homes and downed trees.
The Rapid Response Team just wrapped up a deployment in Kingsport, Tenn., where a different storm system caused flash flooding and extensive damage to homes and businesses.
Equipment that was stationed in Kingsport is headed about 140 miles southeast, through the Blue Ridge Mountains, to Conover, N.C. That’s where the Rapid Response Team and Samaritan’s Purse will base their operations.
As chaplains prepare to meet with homeowners, they’re asking for prayers for the people they’ll encounter—people who may be anxious, overwhelmed and unsure of the next steps.
“It’s something I know we should do, because there are a lot of people hurting and suffering right now,” New said.
Through prayer and a willingness to listen, the members of the Rapid Response Team hope to relieve some of the hurt. They’re praying the Lord will lead them to the right people, and use the chaplains to spread peace and hope in Catawba County.