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Mark Coleburn, a volunteer from Woodstock, Ga., uses a chain saw to cut downed trees.

Photos submitted by Samaritan’s Purse



Originally published: 2014-02-18 21:00:07
Last modified: 2014-02-18 21:00:53

Disaster relief teams deployed

by Allison Haver

A winter storm described as "epic," brought sheets of ice that have crippled areas in southern parts of the United States.

With more than 200,000 homes and businesses losing electricity, Georgia was particularly hit hard by the storm. South Carolina also had about 245,000 power outages.

As homes begin to regain power, yards and roofs are still damaged by branches and other debris.

Due to the devastation, Boone-based Samaritan's Purse is responding by deploying a disaster relief team to Augusta, Ga., and by sending staff and equipment to Moncks Corner, S.C.

On Friday, members from Samaritan's Purse U.S. Disaster Relief team, based in North Wilkesboro, traveled to Augusta to assess the damage.

The team determined that the organization needed to deploy and sent out a call for volunteers on Sunday.

"Volunteers started coming yesterday (Monday) and are still coming in," Samaritan's Purse media relations coordinator Karina Peterson said.

Peterson said volunteers from all over have made their way to Augusta to help the Georgia homeowners affected by the storm.

"We've had people come from Memphis, Tenn., Kernersville, N.C., and Michigan," she said. "People saw on the news about the storm in the South, so when we called out for volunteers they started signing up."

Peterson said homeowners in Augusta had 2 to 2 1/2 inches of ice on their homes and trees on their properties.

"We are helping people clean up the debris in their yards from trees snapping in half because of the ice," she said. "This ice storm damage looks like a hurricane came through here."

Volunteers of all skill levels are clearing yards of debris, cutting trees with chain saws and moving them to curbs and removing loose limbs to prevent any future damage.

"We hope to have everything looking better before the storm even hit," Peterson said.

Volunteers and Samaritan's Purse staff are helping individuals who are not physically able to do the work themselves, as well as people who may be able to but have full-time jobs and do not have the time to clear their properties.

"It's too big of a job for one person to take on, and for people with full-time jobs, it's a completely daunting task for them," Peterson said. "It's so awesome to be able to go up to homeowners and say we are here to help you at no cost to you."

On Monday, volunteers had helped several families with their yards, homes and trees.

According to Peterson some properties take only hours to clean, while others can take all day to complete.

In addition to Augusta, the organization has also deployed a team to eastern South Carolina to help families impacted by the storm.

"They have not begun to clean in Eastern South Carolina, hopefully, they will begin that work (today)," Peterson said. "Right now they are canvasing the area and letting people know who we are and what we can do to help."

Samaritan's Purse's disaster relief team plans on staying in the two areas until its work is done.  

"Samaritan's Purse is committed to staying here as long as needed and as long as we have volunteers to help," she said. "We will leave when the work is finished."

Peterson believes the team will be there for a couple of weeks because of the extent of the damage.

"There are a lot of people here in need of help. We are not leaving anytime soon," she said.

To volunteer to help in Augusta, Ga., or in eastern S.C. visit the Samaritan's Purse's website at http://www.samaritanspurse.org and register under the volunteer opportunities, or call (828) 262-1980 and speak to the organization directly.