Wednesday just felt like things were going to be bad. The ferocious winds of the morning that destroyed a house a few miles away reminded me of the hurricane winds I witnessed many times in Florida. The weather reporters seemed more nervous than usual. Nothing prepared us for the ferocity of the storms, the continual reports of new tornadoes in various locations, and the early reports of devastation. The strangest moment was listening to the account of the tornadoes sweeping near where I preach (about 45 minutes away) as I sat on my deck in the sunshine having just witnessed a tornado system pass by a few miles away only an hour or so before.
I grew up in Fultondale, preached for five years in Northport/Tuscaloosa, have directed summer camps at Children’s Harbor near Alexander City, and live just north of Warrior (all cities in Alabama). All of these locations were seriously damaged in the tornado and straight line wind damage last Wednesday, April 28, 2011. Our own small town suffered damage and we were without power for over three days and without water for about a day. Though we suffered some electrical system damage to one of our house circuits, some friends of ours down the road suffered serious damage to their house. The tornadoes in our area passed a few miles either side of our house so we happily accepted the inconvenience of lost power and water to loss of a house or life.
Over the past two days I have passed through several of the communities damaged by the storms and seen the videos and pictures of damage in other areas. The devastation to areas that I knew so well is shocking and hard to grasp. It is one of the few disasters where everyone I know was affected directly or knew someone who was. Many of the communities destroyed were working class or low income areas where the normal challenges to living day by day have now intensified. The government and aid agencies are responding quickly but I think most people are wanting to know how they can help. Here are some ideas:
Donate and/or Volunteer
There are professional organizations who have the personnel and organizational ability to coordinate relief quickly to these areas. Some good sites for coordinated efforts to respond to this disaster are:
Serve Alabama (Governor Bentley’s Alabama Tornado Relief Fund)
Federal Emergency Management Agency Helping Others Site
American Red Cross (Or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to give $10)
Local Media (WERC and MyFoxAL)
The people here need your prayers for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and are trying to recover. Remember the rescue crews and utility crews as they try to save lives and help the communities rebuild. Pray for opportunities for the gospel to reach those who are lost who, because of the events of the past week, are reconsidering their relationship with God. Pray for the other states that were affected and the communities recovering.
In Alabama we are accustomed to tornado watches and warnings during the warm months. Several times a year we journey to the basement–our safe place–to wait out the threat. I believe the average Southerner probably knows more tornado related weather terminology and can interpret a weather map better than the rest of the world. Sometimes we can become complacent, but most of us have been close to or in a tornado and have developed a healthy respect for the power of these storms. This week, our appreciation for the power of the storms and the power of everyday people helping others rebuild after a disaster grew exponentially.