Ky. Disaster Relief team working in area pounded by Harvey 2 years ago

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LIBERTY, Tex. (KT) – Karen Smith’s heart breaks for the people in the this hurting southeast Texas town.

Two years after being paralyzed and swept under water by Hurricane Harvey, they community in Liberty is going through much of the same misery from Tropical Storm Imelda a couple of weeks ago.

The flooding in southeast Texas drew comparisons to Hurricane Harvey, which dropped more than 50 inches of water on parts of the Houston area and southeast Texas two years ago.

Kentucky Disaster Relief was called in for assistance.

“We’ve got three teams working and in all of them, two especially, these people had kind of got back to normal from Harvey, and then this …” said Smith, one of 22 Kentucky Disaster Relief volunteers working in the area.

Smith, who is working as the blue hat chaplain on this trip, has seen it all before. She has worked 25 years for Kentucky Disaster Relief, normally with the feeding teams but now in the chaplain where she deals with individuals facing their worst nightmares.

Sometimes, said the veteran DR worker, just listening to the victims of flooding, where they lost almost everything, is enough.

“One of the ladies today, we just had to minister to her for an hour,” she said. “When we left, she was laughing and talking with the group.
She just had a meltdown. Your heart breaks for them especially for people who are doers and like to fix things. We can’t fix that.”

But Smith said they always try to offer the hope that comes in Jesus Christ. “It’s a lot easer when they are followers and have a relationship with Jesus than if they don’t,” she said. “If they don’t, they feel hopeless. There are times when you have to say something and then you just back off.”

Smith, who is a member of Pleasantview Baptist Church in Wayne County, said the Kentucky team will be in Liberty all week with an expected return on Sunday morning “if we get everything done.”

She said the area was engulfed with water from Imelda, which became the continental United States’ fifth-wettest tropical cyclone, dumping more than 41 inches in some areas. Harvey dropped more than 60 inches of water two years ago.

The team stopped in a church service in Louisiana on Sunday, a town where she had served before through DR.

They had brought shower trailers and ended up feeding, too, Smith recalled. She also remembered the church sanctuary being wall to wall with cots for those who were left homeless.

Smith said she gets a special feeling from working in the areas with other Kentucky Disaster Relief team friends. She’s a humble person too. She sent a couple of dozen photos to Kentucky Today and none were of her. “I’m the photographer,” she said. “So I’m not in the pictures.”

Smith said she has done mud-out work, dragged trees and even worked the chainsaws. “I’m chaplain this time but normally I’m feeding. That’s my No. 1 priority.”

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