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Churches help after TX twisters

Tuesday night's deadly tornadoes in Texas destroyed seven homes.

BY HEATHER MOYER | ANNA, Texas | May 11, 2006

Tuesday night's deadly tornadoes in northern Texas destroyed seven homes and severely damaged nine others, according to a county official.

Collin County officials confirmed that another four homes in the northern part of the county suffered moderate damage, and 18 others were affected.

"We're still doing some evaluation, but that may be the grand total," said Jamie Nicolay, a public information officer for Collin County.

The tornado killed three people and injured 10 others. Nicolay said the area affected is mostly rural and near the towns of Westminster and Anna. National Weather Service (NWS) officials say Tuesday's twister in Westminster was an F3 on the Fujita scale. Two other tornadoes touched down near Anna and Childress, Texas.

Marji Bishir, disaster response coordinator for the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, toured the damaged areas Wednesday with Anna United Methodist Church Pastor Bob Turk.

"We've offered our early response teams to the county, now we're just waiting to be invited," said Bishir. "Our church's policy is that we wait until someone asks us for help before coming in."

Bishir said the conference's early response teams are chainsaw certified and would help with tree and debris removal if needed.

Rev. Turk said only one of his parishioners had home damage and that he's been able to reach everyone so far. "Our members are safe," he said. Turk's church is working with other churches in Anna through the already-established "Anna Outreach" program that provides funds to families in times of need. The organization is setting up a fund at a local bank to receive donations for the families affected by the tornado.

Turk's church also runs a food pantry and clothes closet - which are open to anyone in need as well. He said he's been impressed so far by how the community has stepped up to care for the affected families. "Most everyone knows everyone out here so they all have places to go and what they need right now," he said.

The twister's damage and destruction is shocking, he added, saying that his tour through the affected neighborhoods was eye-opening. "It's impressive what a powerful storm can do. It snapped things in half, tossed things everywhere and there are fence posts and steel items bent over double. Houses are just gone, I can't believe more people weren't killed."

For now, Turk is waiting to see who else may be in need, knowing that his church members will do all they can to help. "This church has a big heart and they'll do whatever's needed."

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