So far this year's tornado damage has not been as devastating as in 2012, above, but the tornado season is still unfolding.
By Susan Kim*
April 18, 2013—Last week's tornadoes might not be the worst the southern U.S. has ever seen, but for those who lost everything, the twisters spelled a major disaster.
That's what Janice Mann, disaster response coordinator for the Arkansas Conference, urged people to remember as news from the April 10 storms faded quickly from national headlines.
Last week, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) sent a $10,000 emergency grant to the Arkansas Conference to help with immediate response efforts.
Clinton, the county seat of Van Buren County in north-central Arkansas, was one of the hardest-hit areas, said Mann, who estimated at least 60 homes were damaged there. Clinton is about 75 miles north of Little Rock.
The community of Horseshoe Bend was hit as well, with close to 30 homes damaged. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declared 15 counties as state disaster areas.
“We don't have any tornado as major as what we've seen before—but for the people whose homes were hit, this was major,” she said.
Assessments were still being conducted in Mississippi, according to Wayne Napier, disaster response coordinator for the Mississippi Conference. “We're doing some tarping and debris removal,” he said.
Kemper County, in the eastern part of the state along the Alabama state line, was one of the worst hit areas. Reports from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency indicated that, over a seven-county area, at least 70 homes were damaged.
Part of the challenge in the damaged areas is that they are not densely populated, Napier said. “Even for Mississippi, it's a very, very rural area and so there's not much infrastructure there. Right now local churches are dealing with immediate calls for help.”
Earlier this year, in February, tornadoes tore through southern Mississippi, in the Hattiesburg area, but this latest round of tornado damage does not appear to overlap the previous damage.
Last week's storms also caused damage in Missouri, with tornadoes hitting the St. Louis suburbs. Other parts of the country saw snow and ice, as the massive line of storms spanned from Maine to the Dakotas at one point.
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*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.