Tornado efforts turn focus to recovery

By May 23, 2013

USA (MNN) — Crews are turning their focus now from rescue to recovery in Moore, Oklahoma.

A White House official said the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent hundreds of workers to Oklahoma to help with the recovery. Already, more than 1,000 people have already registered for assistance.

Emergency workers pulled more than 100 survivors from the debris of homes, schools, and a hospital after the tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City region with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour, leaving a trail of destruction 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.

The National Weather Service upgraded its calculation of the storm's strength on Tuesday, saying it was a rare EF5, the most powerful ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The event gives Moore the distinction of being the only city in the world to have taken a direct hit from an EF5 twister twice: once in 1999 and again Monday.

Oklahoma Emergency Management said a flyover of the affected area showed 2,400 homes damaged or obliterated, with an estimated 10,000 people affected. The National Guard is already on the ground helping, as are the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Early damage
estimates from the Oklahoma Insurance Department suggest the repairs could be
more than $2 billion.

World Renew Regional Managers were in Texas responding to the tornadoes that struck last week, when they heard about the Oklahoma City tornado. They got in touch with government officials and others in Oklahoma to evaluate how they could best respond.

Bill Adams serves as director for World Renew's Disaster Response program. "The community is really devastated. We began communicating with our partners in Oklahoma to see what's the best way for us to send people or to help. I'm thinking it's going to be spiritual support."

With 2,400 homes damaged or destroyed, why focus on spiritual help? Adams explains, "You could just tell the anguish, and yet the faith of the people down there is so great. So we're looking at sending some folks down that can be more of a spiritual support right now. Then, we may be looking at cleanup teams, but I have a feeling that they're going to have a lot of help in that area."

It's human nature to focus on more immediate needs after a natural disaster like a tornado. The emotional side of the shock doesn't register immediately. When a survivor is standing on a pile of rubble, it's often the family memories that are buried. "When their homes have been completely destroyed, everything they own is scattered around the neighborhood. Just having someone to come by them that cares, God uses that in an amazing way. It's a great thing to be a part of."

In the weeks that follow a disaster like this, many begin to feel the impact of the tornado on their emotional health. In some cases, it takes months after the event before people reach out for help. These are the wounds you can't see. Adams says, "It's as simple as going around to the communities that have been affected and just meeting people, talking to people, praying with people…sometimes, getting down on your hands and knees and helping people find things like pictures."

The grieving process takes more time than the news cycle has to give. Adams says although a large part of the community expressed faith in the immediate aftermath, they have a long road ahead. "Prayer is powerful. I think, all of us, when we've been affected in our personal lives, even though we're believers, to have people come alongside and support us, encourage us in our faith, to me that's also a powerful part of the Gospel. So in this case where there are a lot of believers, I believe it's just as important a role that God gives us on earth."

World Renew and Reformed Church World Service also expect to stand by disaster survivors for the long-term, repairing and rebuilding homes for the elderly, the disabled, and those who lack insurance or ability to do repairs on their own.

This will be carried out by some of the more than 3,000 short- and long-term volunteers from the Christian Reformed Church, the Reformed Church of America, and other denominations that World Renew has on its roster who are trained and ready to respond quickly when disasters strike.

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