UMCOR Stands with Conferences Affected by Tornadoes
By Linda Unger*
March 5, 2012—The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, US Disaster Response executive for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is on his way today to areas affected by last week’s tornadoes.
“I was in immediate contact with conference personnel from several of the affected areas to let them know that UMCOR stands ready to assist them,” Hazelwood reported.
Among those Hazelwood reached was Charles Wilfong, Indiana Annual Conference South District Superintendent, who reported widespread damage in the district, especially in the towns of Henryville, Marysville, Pekin, and Palmyra.
“I learned that two Pekin UMC families have lost their homes,” Wilfong said in an email message, adding that several congregants were in serious condition and hospitalized. “The church, parsonage, and Family Life Center all have power restored, and the congregation is rallying to assist the community.”
Hazelwood also spoke with Indiana Conference Bishop Michael Coyner and with Bishop Gregory Palmer of Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
Early Saturday morning, conference Disaster Response personnel in hard-hit areas, including Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, reported that they had already begun assessments of the damages caused by the severe weather that struck 12 states.
News reports indicated that as of Sunday evening 39 people were known to have been killed in the storms.
In an email message, the Rev. Julie Hager Love, director of Connectional Ministries of the Kentucky Annual Conference, reported “major, major damage” in the town of West Liberty in eastern Kentucky, as well as significant storm damage and flooding in other parts of the conference.
James Morse, the conference’s Disaster Response coordinator, indicated that there will be a need for volunteers very soon, and asked that teams register with the conference website. He reiterated the extensive damage to the town of West Liberty and said the United Methodist church there “may not be salvageable.”
Kentucky and southern Indiana suffered the greatest number of casualties due to the tornadoes, 21 and 13 deaths respectively, with hundreds injured. Three people died in Ohio and one each in Alabama and Georgia because of the severe weather.
“The scale of the outbreak was enormous, with a preliminary total of 117 tornadoes touching down in 11 states, from southern Ohio to northern Florida. The National Weather Service issued 297 tornado warnings and 388 severe thunderstorm warnings” on the evening of March 2 into March 3, reported meteorologist Jeff Masters on his Wunderblog. These storms and tornadoes follow on the heels of the Leap Day tornadoes, when 36 twisters were responsible for 13 deaths on the evening of February 28 – 29.
Hazelwood received an invitation from Bishop Palmer to accompany him today morning as he surveys the damage in Harrisburg, IL, which was severely damaged by the Leap Day tornadoes. At least nine Harrisburg residents died in that storm. The UMCOR executive will extend his stay to visit other hard-hit conferences, including Indiana.
UMCOR requests your prayers for all who have been affected by these tornadoes and storms. You can help. Please give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670 and choose Tornadoes 2012 from the drop-down menu.
*Linda Unger is staff editor and senior writer for UMCOR.