Severe Weather Continues to Haunt South
By Linda Unger*
April 26, 2011—As severe weather in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kentucky added new woes to southern US states, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) worked with United Methodist annual conferences to assess damages and respond to survivors. Violent weather is expected to continue in the coming days.
At least seven people died and as many as 80 homes were destroyed in Arkansas on Monday, April 25, as a powerful storm, probably including tornadoes, and flooding impacted different parts of the state, news reports said. In tiny Vilonia, at least a dozen people were still reported missing this morning
Storms in Arkansas and also in southeastern Oklahoma raged all weekend, dumping 16 inches of rain since Saturday in some places, according news reports. The severe weather actually began a week ago and, so far, has killed at least 14 people in Arkansas.
In Kentucky, flooding provoked by heavy rainfall has impacted at least 206 homes, but this is only an initial count, as many areas remain inaccessible.
“We are still in the beginning of this event, and with the weather reports for tomorrow being what they are, it will be the weekend before we get a handle on what the full impact will be,” said James Morse, coordinator of the conference’s disaster response team.
More flooding is expected this week in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Missouri. UMCOR is standing by, said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, US Disaster Response executive. “Once the flooding occurs and after the water recedes, it will be possible to make new assessments of the damages and to respond,” he said.
Already, UMCOR has sent an emergency grant to the Arkansas Annual Conference and expects to send another to the Missouri Annual Conference to help with early response training and with case management of survivors.
Karen Benson, disaster response coordinator of the Missouri Annual Conference, said flooding is just beginning across the state, with crests expected later this week. “Many communities are predicted to crest at all-time-record levels,” she said.
UMCOR already has shipped 1,500 cleaning buckets to the Missouri Conference from its Sager Brown relief-supply depot.
St. Louis was still reeling from a fierce tornado that pushed through the city on Saturday, April 23, damaging the airport and some 750 homes, according to the governor’s office. Fewer than 100 homes were utterly destroyed and uninhabitable. Miraculously, no deaths were reported.
Additional severe weather, including more tornado activity, is expected in the coming days and could affect the cities of Tyler, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Shreveport, Louisiana; Tupelo, Mississippi; and Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, according to news reports.
Later, when the tornado danger shifts east, it is expected to extend from the eastern Tennessee Valley to the mid-Gulf Coast and possibly affect Meridian, Mississippi; Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama; and Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee.
Your prayers are requested for all who may be in the path of continued severe weather. Cleaning buckets help those affected by storms or flooding to begin the arduous task of cleaning up, and can be shipped to any of the depots in the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network.