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Missouri faces tornadoes

Local churches sprang to people's aid Wednesday morning immediately after tornadoes raked southwest Missouri Tuesday night.

BY SUSAN KIM | CHESAPEAKE, Mo. | December 18, 2002

"I would predict more widespread damage."

—Tom Davis

Local churches sprang to people's aid Wednesday morning immediately after tornadoes raked southwest Missouri Tuesday night.

At least two-dozen homes were destroyed or damaged in Barton, Lawrence and Polk counties, and that number will grow as damage assessors continued their work Wednesday afternoon, said Jerry Uhlman, spokesperson for the Missouri Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

Two people were killed and at least 20 others injured when storms brought multiple tornadoes, high straight-line winds and quarter-sized hail across many counties in southwest Missouri and parts of Kansas.

One mobile home park -- the Lucky Lady Mobile Home Park, with some 30 households -- was almost leveled. Teetering debris made even those homes still standing uninhabitable Wednesday.

Power lines were downed throughout the area.

Uhlman stressed the importance of faith-based and community-based voluntary groups in the wake of this disaster. "It doesn't look like it's widespread enough to get a federal declaration so it will fall on the voluntary organizations to help people recover," he said.

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross were on the scene Wednesday morning.

MEMA was sending a volunteer coordinator to the area Wednesday. Tom Davis, a Church World Service disaster response and recovery liaison, was also making contact with local responders to assess needs in the largely rural area.

And as of Wednesday afternoon, the storm wasn't over, said Davis. "I would predict more widespread damage," he said. "The 36-hour forecasts show this to be a very slow-moving storm. It will take the next 24 hours for it to move out of Missouri."

Meanwhile local churches were springing to people's aid. Congregations in the Mount Vernon ministerial alliance were working together to coordinate meals and shelter for storm survivors.

The Covenant Baptist Church was collecting cash donations for those affected.

The First Baptist Church opened a clothes closet, and was preparing food. "We are also trying to get hold of family members out of state," said Kathy Cruz.

One member of the Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, an elderly man, had his brick home virtually destroyed around him during the night, said Marilyn Carey. He miraculously emerged unscathed but lost a great deal, said Marilyn Carey from the church. "Our pastor is with him now," she said.

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