By Roy Winter, executive director of Service Ministries for the Church of the Brethren
A devastating outbreak of 59 confirmed tornados occurred overnight on Dec. 10 to 11 in the central US, followed by powerful storms on Dec. 15. District Disaster Response Coordinators (DDCs) from the affected Church of the Brethren districts–Illinois and Wisconsin, Missouri and Arkansas, Northern Plains, Southern Ohio and Kentucky, and Western Plains–report little to no damage in the communities with Church of the Brethren congregations.
Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is the first response program for Brethren Disaster Ministries. Starting Friday, Dec. 17, a small team of CDS volunteers is at a MARC (Multi-Agency Resource Center) set up by Missouri Emergency Management in Defiance, Mo. CDS continues to work with the Red Cross and other partners to determine additional opportunities to support the children affected across the long path of the tornados, but at the time of this publication no additional CDS teams have been activated.
In related news, the Church of the Brethren’s Material Resources program is shipping two shipments of fleece blankets to Kentucky on behalf of Church World Service.
Extraordinary tornados and storms
Tornados on Dec. 10-11 swept through at least 9 states with Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri being the most impacted. More than 90 people may have been killed, with 16 still missing, making this the deadliest and largest outbreak of tornados in December on record.
Two extraordinary storms traveled over 100 miles each, producing tornados along the way. The resulting destruction leveled whole towns, such as Mayfield, Ky., which will receive lots of aid, but also caused such widespread damage, the full scope of which is not fully known. This means many unknown families and communities are not being reported on and need assistance.
This tornado outbreak was followed by powerful storms on Dec. 15, which brought wind gusts of more than 100 m.p.h. and 13 confirmed tornados in parts of the great plains and upper midwest. The wind and tornados caused damage to homes, businesses, and trees, and power outages to half a million homes.
Coordinating the church’s response
In a coordination meeting of Brethren Disaster Ministries staff and the DDCs, the group shared storm updates and discussed response planning, including for forgotten communities receiving little, if any, press coverage and limited aid. Grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF), volunteer coordination, and short-term volunteer responses are likely to be part of the longer response to these storms.
Brethren Disaster Ministries will focus on helping with the longterm recovery of underserved communities through grants, volunteer coordination, and partnerships. Many organizations go to disaster sites to help clean up after disasters; Brethren Disaster Ministries is among the few that stay for the long road to recovery that helps families rebuild their lives. Support the Brethren Disaster Ministries response with financial gifts at www.brethren.org/give-winter-tornados.
Church World Service is sending relief kits and clean-up buckets to the impacted communities and are supporting unaccompanied children in Kentucky. Brethren Disaster Ministries will support this longterm partner. You can be part of this partnership by building and sending CWS kits to the Brethren Service Center. For information, go to https://cwskits.org.
Please pray for the people who were impacted by these December tornados and storms. May God’s healing presence give peace and hope. Pray that God will deliver comfort to those who mourn the loss of loved ones and strength to all providing care for affected communities.
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