Diocese rushes aid to parishes after devastating tornado

A TORNADO with winds estimated at 170 miles per hour struck Lee County in Alabama and surrounding areas on Sunday, 3 March. It destroyed homes and property and killing at least 23 people, making it the nation’s deadliest tornado in nearly six years.

More than 90 people have been treated for injuries at nearby hospitals. Two EF-1 tornadoes struck nearby areas causing additional destruction.

Alabama Diocese said that the front moved through the state causing widespread damage to the southeastern part on Sunday, with tornadoes affecting communities of Smith Station and Beauregard in Lee County.

The Rev Dr Larry Williams, who serves as priest in charge at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Smith Station, reported that the tornado passed within a mile of the church, but at this time the church appears undamaged.

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama as it coordinates a response to a series of tornadoes that devastated eastern Alabama earlier this week.

The US Disaster team is in contact with the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Smith Station as they coordinate a response to the tornadoes. Episcopal Relief & Development is also in contact with the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia as they assess the needs in their community.

“Disasters have three phases: Rescue, Relief, Recovery,” said Katie Mears, Senior Director, US Disaster Program for Episcopal Relief & Development.

“Right now the disaster response is moving from the initial Rescue phase, where first responders such as police and fire department are focusing on saving lives, into the Relief phase. In the coming weeks and months, we will work with the Diocese of Alabama to provide relief and help communities recover.”

She added: “We are standing ready to offer assistance as the local church assesses needs and identifies areas where it can best help impacted people in this difficult time.”

The priest added: “As we find with so many disasters, the desire to rush in and help is understandable.The first responders and professional disaster response agencies are present and assisting families.”

The Baptist Church Chain Saw Brigade is ready to help clear the land and meet some immediate needs.The Church of the Highlands has provided temporary housing in a hotel for those who lost their homes.

“We have learned that no supplies of donated items are needed at the moment as there is no more room to store the items. Our Episcopal Church can offer some immediate, emergency response. On Shrove Tuesday, parishioners at St Stephen’s, Smith Station, cooked and served dinner for the first responders,” said Mr Williams.

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