MOUNT JULIET — Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief has boots on the ground across Tennessee this week as volunteers provide the “hands and feet” of Jesus to those affected by a deadly string of storms that swept across the central and southern portions of the United States March 31 and the early morning hours of April 1.
CNN News reported April 2 that 32 deaths have been confirmed by the storms, including 15 in Tennessee.
McNairy County mayor Larry Smith told CNN that nine people died in the county. The Tennessee Emergency Management Association (TEMA) confirmed the nine deaths in McNairy County as well as three deaths in Memphis and single deaths in Tipton, Henry and Roane Counties.
Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said DR teams were on site Sunday in Covington (Tipton County) and McNairy County. Both locations received extensive damage, Jones said.
Liberty Baptist Church, Covington, will host a DR feeding team and volunteers, beginning April 3, while an incident command post will be set up at First Baptist Church, Selmer, to serve resident of McNairy County. Kay and John Thomas will serve as incident commanders in Selmer while Karen and Tommy Wilson will assume the same role in Covington, Jones said.
“Last week was a devastating week for Tennesseans,” observed Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “Early in the week, there was the horrific tragedy at Covenant School in Nashville. Then on Wednesday, nine soldiers were killed in the crash of Fort Campbell-based Blackhawk helicopters and on Friday and Saturday devastating tornadoes ripped through the state.
“But I am thankful that when the sun rose this morning (April 1), Tennessee Baptist DR volunteers were already responding to begin the process of rebuilding homes and restoring hope,” he said.
What’s more, “the DNA of our DR volunteers is to respond until the job is as complete as possible, regardless if it is months, and sometimes, years in the future.”
Jones said the feeding unit in Covington may be needed for at least a week or more because many of the areas outside the downtown area of Covington are expected to be without power for at least a week, if not more. DR volunteers from Woodland Baptist Church, Brownsville, were on site Sunday, April 2, and more chainsaw teams will begin in earnest on April 3 to help residents clear debris from their homes and property, he said. The Woodland volunteers also cleared debris in Haywood County as well, Jones added.
In McNairy County, Beech River Baptist Association’s DR team will help with cleanup efforts there, Jones said. Other volunteers will be requested as needed.
Other areas affected
• Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr asked Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to declare “a state of emergency” for the Readyville community, according to WKRN News. “It looked like a bomb went off,” Carr said in a release to the news station.
WKRN reported some residents sustained injuries but everyone was found. Many homes were destroyed on Readyville Street, as well as the historic Readyville Mill, Reed’s Produce and Garden Center and the Tilford Lumber Co. building, according to the newscast.
The station reported that according to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department, the tornado occurred near the Rutherford-Cannon county line.
• Jones said storm damage also occurred in East Tennessee and Nolachucky Baptist DR teams were asked to help clear downed trees in Hamblin County.
• The Tennessean reported that Cannon, Lewis, Macon, Marshall, Rutherford and Wayne counties sustained devastating damage Friday night into early Saturday morning. National Weather Service officials were still determining whether any of the harsh wind gusts were actually tornadoes in all of the areas, according to the article.
A “2023 Tornado Fund” has been established at TnDisasterRelief.org for those who wish to assist in recovery efforts.
Additional articles and photos will be posted at baptistandreflector.org as they become available. B&R