Deadly Storms Sweep Southern U.S.

A father hugs his daughter while taking a break from helping friends sift though rubble from homes destroyed in an Arkansas tornado.

Catholic Charities agencies were on the ground assessing damage after a series of storms with deadly tornadoes and massive floods swept through the southern United States on April 27-29. The storms killed 35 people, left thousands without power and razed homes and businesses.

Arkansas and Mississippi were the hardest hit, but deaths were also reported in Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama and Tennessee. Georgia residents lost power, and the Carolinas and Florida experienced flash floods.

Advertisement

In areas hit by tornadoes, thousands of people forced out of their homes sought temporary shelter while the National Guard, local police and residents sifted through the rubble searching for victims.

Patricia Cole, communications director for Catholic Charities USA, said its disaster response operations team has been coordinating with local Catholic Charities agencies in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, “where conditions on the ground are changing by the hour.” Cole said Catholic Charities USA had received requests for grants for financial assistance and is staying in close contact with Catholic dioceses and agencies in the damaged areas as they assess the needs in their communities.

Patrick Gallaher, executive director of Catholic Charities of Arkansas, posted updates on the agency’s website, noting that the search and rescue phase of the relief effort finished on April 30. He also said the overflow of donations made it impossible to store any other contributions until new collection points were established. “The immediate need of survivors is being met,” he said.

St. Joseph Church in Conway, Ark., initially was used as an American Red Cross shelter, but the shelter was closed April 29 because not enough people were using it. Parishes in the Little Rock Diocese have been conducting their own drives to mobilize and collect donated materials.

Gallaher said the local Catholic Charities agency continues to coordinate with other agencies to provide support during the cleanup phase and is gathering case managers for the rebuilding effort that will come in the months ahead.

“The long-term relief effort will take months as we assist people in obtaining replacement housing, furniture, clothing and counseling,” he said. “As needs crystallize, we shall seek help from among our parishes.”

Greg Patin, executive director of Catholic Charities in Jackson, Miss., told Catholic News Service on April 30 that staff members would begin to assess local needs on May 1, after first responders finished their work.

Once needs are assessed, he said, “we will begin to provide what assistance we can,” but he also noted that the agency has limited staffing resources and will need volunteer assistance.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

 A photo panel shows Pennsylvania Bishops Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown, Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg and Lawrence T. Persico of Erie. The Pennsylvania attorney general released a grand jury report Aug. 14 on a months-long investigation into abuse claims spanning a 70-year period in the six dioceses. (CNS photo/courtesy of the dioceses)
The state’s attorney general said that his office’s two-year investigation identified 301 priests who abused children and more than 1,000 victims.
One of the leading novelists of our age on faith, fiction and his distrust of religious institutions.
James T. KeaneAugust 14, 2018
Panel members Ivor Frank and Alexis Jay at a public hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (courtesy of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse)
The new report finds evidence of appalling sexual and physical mistreatment of students as young as 7, as well as a culture of secrecy, at two abbey schools.
David StewartAugust 14, 2018
The Gospel calls on all of us to get past “analysis paralysis,” where direct action is always put off in favor of more research and discernment.
Mary M. McConnahaAugust 14, 2018