News Articles

Disaster Relief on site following deadly Memorial Day weekend

NASHVILLE (BP) — Disaster Relief personnel from several states are responding to weekend storms and tornadoes that left at least 22 dead.

Eight fatalities were reported in Arkansas, primarily in areas around Rogers and Bentonville, state Disaster Relief director Randy Garrett told Baptist Press.

Two command centers have been set up. One at Elmdale Baptist Church in Springdale includes a feeding team of volunteers from Washington and Madison counties.

“We’re working closely with the Salvation Army to cook meals that they are delivering,” Garrett said. “Several thousand are without power, and we’re hearing that it could be this weekend before it’s restored. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was past that.”

Assessment teams including chaplains are also part of the work at Elmdale and the other base of operations, First Baptist Church in Mountain Home. Altogether, Garrett expects nearly 100 volunteers to be taking part in the effort.

At least seven were counted among the dead from storms that hit north of Dallas. Another round of severe weather in Dallas and Houston included a 75 mph wind gust at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. That came as Houston-area residents continue to recover from flooding early this month. Chainsaw and heavy equipment units from Texans on Mission, formerly Texas Baptist Men, are working alongside those with asset protection, feeding, shower and laundry.

A spokesperson told BP that personnel are working at “full capacity” with some volunteers going from one work site to the next.  

Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief director Scottie Stice said cleanup volunteers and chaplains are in Valley View, where the weekend’s fatalities occurred. Assessors are currently on site in Dallas County and Van Zandt County from yesterday’s weather.

He is hopeful that operations in Livingston and Lumberton east of Houston can finish this week. Disaster Relief shower units have been supporting Red Cross work around the state, Stice added. All told, approximately 75 volunteers, including a team from Oklahoma, are currently on the field.

Former SBC president and Texas pastor Jack Graham posted a video to X on Tuesday (May 28) from the debris-strewn parking lot of Prestonwood Baptist’s Plano campus. He said the church was ministering to its North Texas neighbors while also dealing with significant damage to its building in Plano.

In their state, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief teams are responding in Sulphur, Ardmore, Marietta, Morris, Barnsdall, Hydro, Bartlesville, Osage Hills, Pryor, Salina, Colcord and Claremore.

First Baptist in Claremore received heavy damage, as did the youth parsonage at First, Salina. A Disaster Relief Incident Command Center has been set up at King Road Baptist Church in Claremore. Assessors and chaplains are in place, said state DR director Jason Yarbrough.

Two teams are in the northeast Kentucky town of Russell, said DR director Ron Crow, to help in the communities of Raceland and Flatwoods, all on the Ohio River. Heavy equipment work is expected to continue through the weekend from a storm that hit the area on May 22. Teams from recent storms that left five dead have been sent to Louisville, Corbin, Island and Eddyville.

Crow is in Dawson Springs to mobilize volunteers to clean up damage from an EF-3 tornado. Feeding units will join chaplaincy, showers, communications, chainsaw and heavy equipment teams.

“I anticipate more than 60 volunteers to end up here,” he said of Dawson Springs, where he expects a minimum two-week stay. “We’ll have around 30-35 on the eastern side of the state and another 25-30 in other areas.”