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A man dumps debris into a dumpster in front of a church.A man dumps debris into a dumpster in front of a church.

Volunteers from Ephrata, PA pulling ruined carpeting and warped drywall from the old stone church that dates back to 1905.

As communities from Tennessee and North Carolina up through northeast Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York cope with the aftermath of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Henri on August 21-22, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) has been communicating with the hardest-hit areas, eyeing the potential for a long-term response and praying for people in need.

“Though MDS’s primary role is in long-term recovery—which will occur many months after the storm—we also activate Early Response Teams, and we all can join in prayer for our brothers and sisters who are coping with a devastating disaster,” said MDS Executive Director Kevin King.

King urged volunteers not to travel to flood-hit areas yet, as first responders are still searching for missing persons and ensuring the safety of roads and bridges. Early Response Teams are activated at a local level only after MDS is able to coordinate their work with local emergency management officials and with its partners in National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. MDS also gathers information from church contact persons who reach out in their local communities.

The flooding was catastrophic in Middle Tennessee, where 21 people died, and rural communities were overwhelmed with a wave of floodwaters spawned from 14 inches of rain. The city of Waverly, home to about 4,100 people was one of the hardest hit places. Many roads are still blocked with debris and downed power lines, so damage assessments are only just beginning.

In New Jersey, Middlesex County was badly damaged after 10 inches of rain deluged that area, with residents in towns like Helmetta, Jamesburg and Monroe still assessing damages.

“We appreciate the prayers and the concerns that have been shared,” said King, who added that long-term recovery will be underway long after Tropical Storm Henri has left the headlines.

“Considering that MDS is still working to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas nearly four years ago, we are dedicated to helping people on a long path to recovery,” said King.

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