MDS begins cleanup in Texas

Mennonite Disaster Service sending clean-up crews to communities hit hard by Hurricane Harvey

The MDS Arkansas Search and Rescue Unit conduct operations in Ft. Arthur, Texas.

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) cleanup work began this week in Bloomington, Texas, a rural community in Victoria County, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The storm hit Texas Aug. 25, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 130 miles per hour, according to CNN. The hurricane had a diameter of 280 miles at its first landfall and was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

Harvey dumped a record 51 inches of rain in parts of Texas, and, in a six-day span, released 27 trillion gallons of water over Texas and Louisiana.

MDS volunteers started by cleaning up and cutting trees as part of the early response effort.

An MDS assessment team visited Bloomington, last week, as reported in an Aug. 31, 2017 MDS press release, moving deeper into the footprint of Hurricane Harvey.

Led by MDS executive director Kevin King, the team assessed damage sustained by the storm.

Lynn Kitser, one of the first MDS volunteers on the ground begins cutting trees and cleaning up in Bloomington, Texas.

According to Victoria County emergency operations officials, between 500 and 600 homes sustained damaged, with needs ranging from stringing tarps across roofs to debris removal and gutting.

Already an economically stressed community, Bloomington and Victoria County took the full force of Harvey’s wind as it moved north toward Houston where it dumped trillions of gallons of water, causing catastrophic flooding.

Victoria County officials asked MDS to assist with cleanup efforts in Bloomington.

“We’re ordering in teams,” King says. “The number one priority is tarping roofs to protect the homes from more damage. The wind damage was tremendous.

“Second will be cleanup of debris around the houses for sanitary reasons,” he says, adding that once the debris is curbside, Federal Emergency Management Agency contractors will collect and dispose of the debris.

“Third, we will start gutting houses,” King says. “There is a lot of mucking out to do.”

MDS workers and county officials speak with an unidentified homeowner in Bloomington, Texas about the damage to his home by Hurricane Harvey.

Cleanup crews were scheduled to arrive in Bloomington as early as Sept. 2, with more arriving the beginning of this week.

King says the cleanup effort could take two or three weeks or more.

To help MDS finance the volunteer emergency response teams or to volunteer, visit

MDS is also monitoring Hurricane Irma, which is projected to reach landfall in Florida Sunday morning, according to the CNN website. Tropical storm force winds are expected to impact south Florida and the Florida Keys late Saturday. Irma’s cloud field covers 300,000 square miles, larger than the state of Texas.

Florida Governor Rick Scott urged residents in the evacuation zone to heed the warning and leave before it’s too late.

MDS has already activated an investigation team.

Photo credit: MDS

For more about Hurricane Harvey and relief efforts:

Click here to listen to a podcast in which MDS executive director Kevin King joins Jason Boone, coordinating minister of the Peace and Justice Support Network and Hannah Heinzekehr, executive director of The Mennonite, Inc., to discuss MDS response in Texas.

Read the Aug. 31 MDS press release here:

Harvey by the numbers:

Hurricane Irma live updates from CNN:





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