FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Tarrant County Baptists quickly responded with food and counseling to victims of rush-hour tornadoes which devastated parts of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas, March 28.
The storm hit shortly after 6 p.m., doing the most damage to the downtown area. The same tornado, or another, more powerful twister, struck glancing blows at South Arlington and portions of Grand Prairie.
Five persons were killed, two in storm damage, one in a storm-related traffic accident, and two to drowning. More than 100 were injured, several seriously, and property damage was in the millions of dollars.
Officials said the death toll would have been much higher had the tornado hit an hour earlier, before workers in the high-rise, glass-covered office buildings in the downtown area had left for home.
After dancing close to the ground in the near northwest side of downtown, the storm touched down at Seventh and University, an area which houses the Fort Worth Stock Show and the city’s famous art museums. It wiped out businesses, warehouses and a small low-income residential area near the Trinity River.
It hit several downtown buildings, including Calvary Cathedral — which formerly was First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, founded by J. Frank Norris.
More than 100 persons were in the church, at least two in the prayer tower, which was devastated by the winds. No one was injured at the church.
Officials have estimated financial loss just in the downtown area is more than $175 million.
The storm then hit residential sections south of Interstate 20 in Arlington and Grand Prairie.
The Tarrant Baptist Association activated its disaster relief unit — a truck and 30-foot trailer – about midmorning March 29 at the request of the Arlington Police Department.
Staffed by 10 volunteers, and a like number of helpers from Mission Arlington, the unit was moved into a devastated upscale neighborhood near Matlock and Bardin. The volunteers served a hot meal of ground beef and mixed vegetables from dining flies set up on front lawns of homes in the neighborhood.
Many of the homes were nearly destroyed, with torn away roofs, broken windows, and other damage. Others had only minimal damage.
Bobby Cox, director of church and community ministries for the Tarrant Baptist Association, said the unit fixed and prepared more than 1,000 meals Wednesday. Supper consisted of chicken and dumplings and green beans.
Cox said the American Red Cross requested Baptists move the unit back to the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth for service later in the week. It was scheduled to prepare 3,000 meals Thursday and Friday, which were to be transported to relief workers and victims across the county in Emergency Relief Vehicles (ERVs).
“We are scheduled to prepare meals through Friday, and then we will see what is needed,” Cox said.
He added volunteer counselors were dispatched to the Will Rogers Coliseum where about 175 victims were given emergency shelter. The counselors were on hand to help with the emotional trauma.
Tom Law, director of missions for the Tarrant Baptist Association, said early reports indicate no TBA-member church was damaged by the storm or the flooding which followed in some areas.
“We made a survey of all the churches — particularly those we could not reach by telephone — and all of them appear to be undamaged,” Law said.
Also, neither of the Southern Baptist Convention agencies were damaged: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary or the broadcast division of the North American Mission Board (formerly the Radio-Television Commission).
Efforts are under way to provide assistance to members of Baptist churches who need emergency help with food, clothing, lodging and medication. Persons have been asked to contact the TBA at 817-927-1911.
Persons wishing to make contributions to the relief effort are asked to contact Texas Baptist Men, 333 N. Washington, Dallas, TX 75246, (214) 828-5353, or the Tarrant Baptist Association, 4520 James Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76115, (817) 927-1911.
Additional photos posted in the BP Photo Library. Photo titles: CREATING A PLAN OF ACTION, PROVIDING WATER, DISASTER RELIEF TEAM MOBILIZED, ARLINGTON and CALVARY CATHEDRAL.