Response organizations map TN disaster relief

BY MICHELLE TIRADO | JACKSON, Tenn. | January 20, 1999

JACKSON, Tenn. (Jan. 20, 1999) -- As Vice President Al Gore and

officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) toured

tornado-ravaged areas near this city yesterday, volunteers from Adventist

Community Services (ACS) and the Salvation Army were among a growing number

of volunteer organizations that were distributing food, blankets, personal

hygiene items and other supplies to survivors.

A fast-moving line of tornadoes struck eastern Arkansas and western

Tennessee Sunday afternoon and evening, killing eight people and injuring

more than 100 others. More than 600 homes in at least 22 Tenn. counties

received major damage, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management

Agency (TEMA).

While emergency officials and the American Red Cross completed initial

damage assessments, ACS and other faith-based disaster response organizations including Church World Service and the United Methodist Committee on

Relief, were beginning to provide assistance to survivors.

TEMA said the 30-mile-wide swath of storms traveled through the state

between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. The Jackson area, a city of 50,000 people about

125 miles west of Nashville, was the hardest hit.

According to TEMA's preliminary report, other West Tennessee counties were

affected. A twister touched-down in Henderson County, south of Jackson,

killing one woman and damaging 30 homes. In Hardiman and Carroll Counties, 17

people needed hospitalization. And in Lauderdale, a mobile home park was


TEMA also said three Central Tennessee counties, Dickson, Stewart, and Sumner,

have reported light damage but no injuries. Cecil Whaley, TEMA's Director

of National Hazards, said at least 10 other homes sustained damage in

Bellevue and Joelton.

West Tennessee received the brunt of the storm, according to TEMA. A tornado

that moved through Jackson in Madison County claimed 7 lives and sent 34 to

Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

Whaley said that TEMA will spend the day completing impact assessments. In

addition, Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist toured the devastated regions


and FEMA representatives, are surveying the damage.

Cathy Farmer, director of communications for the Memphis Conference of The

United Methodist Church, said Bemis UMC was expected to be used in relief

activities. A church in nearby Halls, was seriously damaged by the storms.

A representative with UMCOR is being sent to the area, she said.

The Red Cross has shelters in at least two locations and area schools have

suspended classes Tuesday -- more than half of the area's school bus fleet

was destroyed when a tornado plowed through a bus barn.

While TEMA continues to assess damages and injuries, disaster relief teams

await, ready to assist those affected, said Charles Moeller, a CWS regional

facilitator, who expects to be travelling to the area in the next few days.

"We have to let the emergency management people do their job. If they have

immediate needs, we will respond."

Saturday marked the 8 month anniversary of a 1998 storm that sent an even

more potent line of tornadoes through the state, killing eight, injuring

155, and rendering almost half of Tennessee a major disaster area.

Pastor Calvin Andrew Moore of Jackson's East Union Baptist Church had just

begun his Sunday evening sermon, based on Matthew's fourth chapter which

describes Jesus as he is tempted by the devil when one of Moore's

daughter's burst into the church to warn of the tornado predictions.

As church members huddled together in the church's interior hallway, a

tornado nearly destroyed a subdivision at the bottom of the hill. Just

last week, Moore had changed the church's roadside sign to read: "God has a

solution for whatever you are facing."

Updated Jan. 20, 1999

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