Multiple tornadoes ripped through southeast Louisiana Tuesday, March 22, damaging homes, leaving thousands without power, and causing multiple injuries and at least one confirmed death.
Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief state coordinator Stan Statham asked for prayer as DR teams began assessing damage Wednesday in the hard-hit areas of Arabi and New Orleans where people are still trying to recover from last year’s Hurricane Ida.
“Many in this area have not fully recovered from Ida this summer,” Louisiana Baptist Executive Director Steve Horn told the Baptist Message. “It’s hard to understand why these folks are going through this again.”
God is near to the broken hearted
“We have much going on in our world right now, but God is near to the broken-hearted. I am thankful for recently trained new volunteers,” he said. “Louisiana Baptists will have yet another opportunity to share the love of Jesus by serving those in need.”
According to WDSU-TV in New Orleans, three tornadoes were confirmed in Arabi (where one person was killed, though no further details were known), the lower 9th Ward in New Orleans and Lacombe in St. Tammany Parish. The National Weather Service said they would be sending teams into those areas Wednesday to determine the strength of the tornadoes.
WWL-TV in New Orleans reported Tuesday night that Entergy Louisiana’s power outage map showed more than 14,000 customers were without power in Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes. By Wednesday morning, that number had decreased to 2,865 without electricity.
St. Bernard Parish President Gary McInnis said in a news conference on Tuesday that the full extent of damage would be known once crews were able to begin the assessments.
“There’s a lot of work going on, a lot of good people making sure our citizens are protected, making sure that our neighborhoods that were affected are going to be secure,” he said.
The outbreak in Louisiana was part of a larger system that produced powerful tornadoes in parts of Texas and Oklahoma. A 73-year-old woman was killed in the community of Sherwood Shores, about 60 miles north of Dallas, Texas.
Local Southern Baptists leaders are assessing damage and how best to address the needs of the people impacted by the storms.
Chainsaws, tarps and debris pickup
Alex Brian, business manager for New Orleans Baptist Association, said the association already is gathering teams of volunteers to respond in coordination with Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief and Send Relief.
“The need at the moment is for chainsaws, tarps and debris pickup,” he said. “If you or your church are available to volunteer please reach out via text, 504-535-5152.”
Jacob Crawford, director of City Life NOLA ministry, told the Baptist Message he watched from his front porch in Chalmette as the tornado passed in the distance. Even though, his home sustained no damage, he knows others were not as fortunate.
In the coming days, City of Life will develop a plan to minister to those impacted by the storms but in the meantime, he is asking for prayers.
“Please pray for those affected by this tornado,” Crawford said. “Also, pray for the first responders and the disaster relief volunteers who will be serving and being the light of Christ.”
Dennis Watson, lead pastor of Celebration Church which has eight campuses in the New Orleans area, including Arabi, said none of the members sustained serious injuries. He asked for prayers for campus Pastor Trevor Truitt who will lead the church’s effort to assess and plan a response that includes cleanup of homes and meal distribution to the community.
“Pray for missing people to be found and rescued,” Watson told the Baptist Message. “Pray for people to not lose hope. And pray for people to be able to rebuild their homes and lives.”
Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, said he is not aware of any injuries to his members or damage to their homes. He said he could not believe the city has sustained another major disaster. But, added, the city recovered after such disasters as Hurricane Katrina and Ida and will do so again.
“One of the great things about this city is its resiliency through the years,” Luter said. “We are like a Timex watch; we take a licking and keep on ticking. It’s not easy, but we don’t have any other choice other than to rebuild. And we not only will do so but will grow closer together as we do it. Please continue to pray for those who no longer have homes, that they will have a place to stay, and pray about the part you can play as the people of God in the days ahead.”
John Galey, pastor of Poydras Baptist Church in St. Bernard Parish, said his members escaped injuries. He said the church will join others in the community to help those impacted by the tornado.
“It’s especially important to come together and offer encouragement to those who are hurting,” Galey said. “We have the opportunity to share the hope we have in Christ to people very much in need of His love right now.”