United Methodists Clean Up After Oklahoma Tornados
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
March 4, 2009—United Methodists are continuing to assist cleanup and salvage operations following the tornados that struck Oklahoma on Feb. 10-11.
Particularly hard hit was the Lone Grove community, just west of Ardmore in southern Oklahoma, where a tornado killed eight people, demolished 118 homes and damaged an additional 50 homes. The Lone Grove tornado passed about 400 yards east of the local United Methodist church, which was undamaged.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief assigned Mary Gaudreau, a national disaster consultant from Guthrie, Okla., to assess the needs in the area. UMCOR also sent an initial $10,000 emergency grant to the denomination's Oklahoma Annual Conference.
She accompanied Bishop Robert E. Hayes of the Oklahoma Area when he visited Lone Grove on Feb. 21, along with Ardmore District Superintendent Guy Ames III and Oklahoma Conference Volunteers In Mission official Richard Norman, and met with people affected by the deadly tornadoes.
Norman told United Methodist News Service that volunteer teams would probably continue to work over the next few weekends. "Most of the homes that were destroyed were mobile homes, so that limits the amount of cleanup," he said in a Feb. 27 interview.
Disaster Center OpenedCarter, Logan and Oklahoma counties were declared eligible for federal disaster aid on Feb. 15. Oklahoma's governor also had declared a state of emergency for 17 counties.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management opened a disaster recovery center Feb. 21 in Lone Grove. Norman said the center would continue serving people in the affected counties for the next two to three weeks. United Methodist volunteers have worked at the center, and school and health kits, provided by Church World Service and UMCOR, have been distributed there.
Volunteers also have operated through a volunteer center set up by the Assembly of God congregation.
Once the governmental agencies finish their work, unmet needs will be considered. Norman has served as the Oklahoma Conference's liaison for Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, which includes other emergency responders that have organized relief work in the area. Whether VOAD creates a long-term recovery committee will depend upon the wishes of the community, he explained.
"I expect there will be numerous families needing help beyond what FEMA will provide," Gaudreau said.
"The response in the Lone Grove/Ardmore area has been remarkable," she added. "The community is truly fortunate to be blessed with a number of wonderful community and church leaders."
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.