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Tornado Recovery in Arkansas & Oklahoma

Did you know that from January to March of this year, 410 tornadoes have been reported in the United States? Four hundred and ten marks the highest tornado count on record, and a fair share of these reported tornadoes has touched down in each of the four states in our Synod. (Source: Storm Prediction Center, April 11, 2023)



 

Arkansas

On March 31, 2023, an outbreak of severe weather resulted in a high-end F3 tornado inflicting heavy damage to the cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood, and Jacksonville. Another F3 tornado also caused heavy damage in Wynne, Arkansas. Wynne Presbyterian Church sustained damage including blown out windows, uprooted trees, and roof damage.

In response to the devastation, the Presbytery of Arkansas’ Disaster Preparedness & Response Subcommittee is closely monitoring the ongoing needs and recovery efforts in the Little Rock and Wynne areas.

Members of the Presbytery’s subcommittee joined Wynne Presbyterian Church for their Easter Sunday service and continue to connect the church and community members with pertinent information and services provided by the Arkansas VOAD, FEMA, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and other partnering organizations. The subcommittee’s commitment to the long-term recovery of these communities is expected to continue over the next several years.


Wynne Presbyterian Church sustained roof and window damage and uprooted trees. Members and staff of Wynne are committed to supporting the long term recovery of the community.

Ferncliff, a Presbyterian camp & conference center located just 10 miles west of Little Rock, hosted Red Cross volunteers in the days following the tornado. Ferncliff’s Disaster Assistance Center, which stores and ships supplies year-round to impacted communities, has delivered supplies to Colorado, California, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas in April alone. This summer, in partnership with Westover Hills Presbyterian Church and Lutheran Social Services, Ferncliff will offer a free Camp Noah experience, a summer day camp for elementary-aged children who have experienced trauma due to the recent tornadoes.



 

Oklahoma

On April 19, 2023, a cluster of thunderstorms produced large hail of 1-3 inches in diameters and 18 tornadoes across southwestern and central Oklahoma. Homes and businesses in Cole and Shawnee were damaged, and tens of thousands of residents lost power. Parts of Shawnee High School’s campus were decimated, and students are finishing their academic year online.

The athletic facilities at Shawnee High School were significantly damaged by tornadoes touching down throughout Oklahoma in April. Photo credit: The Shawnee News-Star

In conversation with the Rev. Elizabeth Affsprung, pastor of Shawnee United Presbyterian Church, her congregation is eager to provide outreach and support to members and neighbors affected by the storm. As an already economically challenged town, Rev. Affsprung recognizes the widespread grief and the challenges that lay ahead of their recovery. Rev. Affsprung is working with Indian Nations Presbytery, the Synod Partnership for Disaster Recovery and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to discern their long term recovery engagement in the community.


Members of Shawnee United Presbyterian Church are discerning ways to support the recovery of their community after last month’s tornadoes.

 

How You Can Help

Presbyterians are known for our commitment to ensuring those who face the most barriers to recovery are not left behind. You can support the Presbytery of Arkansas, Indian Nations Presbytery, Ferncliff, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance as we serve collaboratively to meet the short and long-term needs of storm survivors by:

  • Praying for all those impacted by these storms and for the individuals and groups offering care and support to survivors and recovering communities.

  • Collecting supplies for Gift of the Heart kits to replenish supplies at Ferncliff’s Disaster Assistance Center.

  • Donating funds to the Presbytery of Arkansas Disaster Preparedness & Response Subcommittee to support long-term recovery efforts.

  • Volunteer at Ferncliff or at one of our other recovering sites.

  • Register with your local Red Cross chapter’s Disaster Action Team to strengthen your local community’s capacity to respond to disasters.

  • Sponsor a Camp Noah participant. Westover Hills PC and Ferncliff hope to welcome up to 50 participants at no cost to the families.

  • Donate funds to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to continue providing financial assistance, logistical/technical training, and emotional spiritual care to congregational and presbytery leaders, as well as local first responders.



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