Information is golden to hurricane evacuees.
It tells them how their homes and communities fared in the storm and offers hints about when they might be able to return.
Hurricane Florence evacuee Jayne Davis knows this all too well as she and her husband, two dogs and two cats wait for the green light to return to hard-hit Wilmington, North Carolina.
“Information is key,” said Davis, the associate pastor for discipleship at First Baptist Church in Wilmington. “People crave information whether you’re away and metaphorically in the dark, or if you are there and literally in the dark.”
One of the ways Davis said she has kept up with events in Wilmington – and how soon she might be able to go home – is through the Facebook posts of Matt Cook, the pastor at First Baptist.
While his family evacuated to Florida ahead of Florence, Cook stayed behind so that he could coordinate disaster response efforts once the storm had passed.
It turned out that his daily “Florence Post” on Facebook – which began before Friday’s landfall and have continued so far through Sunday – provided practical, emotional and spiritual comfort to himself and his social network.
The posts provided updates on the church building (a chimney was toppled by the winds), the conditions of local and regional roadways (not good and getting worse), power outages (getting better), gas availability (long lines) and the danger rising river waters are posing to many Wilmington residents.
The posts offered prayers also to a First Baptist custodial staff member who had family members killed by a falling tree.
Cook said his reports were designed to comfort those concerned about his safety.
“I also wanted to give evacuees a sense of what was happening and to give those left behind an idea of what would happen next,” Cook said.
Commenters expressed everything from gratitude for the updates to comfort from knowing Cook was riding out the storm with them.
The offerings of prayer from fellow ministers, current and former church members was especially powerful, Cook said.
“That breadth of those comments lifted my spirits,” he said.
As many of his earlier reports hinted, Cook on Monday said recovery plans are solidifying as First Baptist teams up with Winter Park Baptist Church to coordinate relief efforts.
Already, a North Carolina Baptists on Mission feeding unit is set up at First Baptist, Cook added. Organizers are trying to push through several semis carrying food before interstates and area roads are closed due to continued flooding.
“Once the roads open our hope is to be a hub of relief efforts in this region for as long as it takes,” he said.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina also is waiting for more information about – and access to – the region impacted by Florence to determine how to provide long-term recovery, said Larry Hovis, executive coordinator.
“First there will be an assessment and then support for weeks or months,” he said.
As of Monday morning, Hovis said he was unaware of any CBF churches sustaining heavy damage from Florence.
Those who evacuated, meanwhile, are anxious for fresh news on when they might be able to return.
But several news reports on Monday suggested that continuing rains is making any return more difficult, if not impossible.
“We are watching things,” Davis said.
“Folks are sending us potential routes. Maybe tomorrow? But there is supposed to be continued river cresting,” she said.
Davis said she has heard a lot of good news. Grocery stores are open and, while there are lines, some gas is available.
And friends are safe.
“We’ve been able to check in on a lot of people, and a lot of them are doing well,” she said.
More people are getting power.
“Getting power helps folks to feel like they can breathe a little bit.”