USA (MNN) – A volatile weather system that tore through Tornado Alley (northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska) over the weekend proved deadly.
On Sunday, a line of strong thunderstorms spawned tornadoes that are blamed for at least 18 deaths, throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma. The twisters wiped out entire neighborhoods in Arkansas. Local news outlets said one funnel cloud in Arkansas reportedly measured a half-mile wide as it struck a 2-mile stretch of Interstate 40, one of the main access highways to Little Rock. The Arkansas National Guard was deployed to help in the search and rescue efforts as well as in cleanup.
These events spread across thousands of miles, bringing struggle and devastation to thousands of people. Bill Adams serves as the Director of World Renew Disaster Response Services program. “Up until now, it has not been bad. There was some hope, on our part, that we would get through the spring. The flooding was our greater concern a month ago.” A hard winter and sudden thaw caused the Muskegon River in West Michigan to overflow its banks at several feet above flood stage.
However, this first strike only points to a challenging late spring season. Adams says they’re already mobilized. “We have what we call ‘early response coordinators.’ These are people that will go in with local families. They provide spiritual support and find out if there’s an area that needs our cleanup teams.”
In light of Sunday’s disaster, they contacted churches in the area to see if they were directly affected. This time, they weren’t.
However, this same storm system is also stretching its threat into southern Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. The first wave hit Monday evening, and the second wave–predicted to be will be equally severe–is forecast to arrive late Tuesday. The National Weather Service says it will include possible tornadoes, damaging straight-line winds, severe thunderstorms, baseball- or softball-sized hail, and from 4 to 5 inches of rain which could cause flash flooding.
Adams notes, “A lot depends on what happens with this system. It would appear now we would be sending people to the Little Rock area, but it could be different depending on what happens.”
Although they’re still in early assessment mode, the staff and volunteers of CRWRC’s Disaster Response Services (DRS) are working hard to meet immediate needs, to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. “When the Lord can work through a volunteer who can touch a human being who has suffered such loss, and then the Lord is praised by that and people are drawn to Him, that’s what it’s all about.” Adams goes on to explain that “Much of World Renew’s work is in the long-term. Once the initial cleanup, once the initial event is out of the news, then World Renew starts to really work in the community to find the vulnerable.”
For example, Adams says they recently wrapped up a couple of rebuilding projects from Hurricane Irene (2011) and Hurricane Sandy (2012). “When the news forgets about the disasters, and when everybody else has gone onto the next disaster, we’re still working in those communities. To me, that’s when the love of Jesus really comes through.”
Wondering when you’ll be asked to pitch in some money? Adams emphasizes that it’s necessary in situations like this. “Be in prayer for the long-term. Be in prayer for the families that are affected because it takes time to get restored, and we need the resources to help do that.”