Tag Archives: U.S. South tornadoes

[Photos] Rebuilding Tuscaloosa

As I saw images from Moore, Oklahoma, flash across my screen in May, I was immediately brought back to similar scenes of devastation that took place in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 2011. I thought about how World Vision was just finishing up its disaster response to that deadly tornado, two years after it touched down.

Tornado in Oklahoma: World Vision Responds

Updated! As World Vision responds to the deadly tornado in Oklahoma, we rely on your continued prayers and support. Walk with us as we stay informed of what's happened, what's happening now, and what World Vision is doing in the devastated communities.

Go and do likewise

World Vision videographer Doug Boyles reflects on his experience reporting from Moore, Oklahoma, in the wake of the catastrophic May 20 tornado, including the amazing generosity he witnessed in the midst of incredible tragedy.

You can help families in Alabama get back on their feet

Last year, a series of destructive tornadoes ripped through the American South, devastating families and communities. This year, World Vision is organizing a series of mission trips to come alongside survivors as they continue to recover and rebuild. Laura Reinhardt reports on one mother in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who has already seen the compassion and generosity of others firsthand.

Mission teams: An answer to tornado survivors’ prayers and dreams

In April 2011, I arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to a scene of utter devastation after a series of tornadoes wreaked havoc across the state and the American Southeast.

It was hard to imagine what the city looked like before the storm swept through. But it was not hard to imagine what the people were like -- because their strength and caring were evident in how they responded.

I got the opportunity to meet Tracy and his wife, Tiffaney. Tracy was built like a football linebacker, while his wife was a petite woman with a big heart.

They talked about the day of the storm. Tiffaney had laughed when Tracy started running their three children through tornado safety exercises. She stopped laughing when they saw the huge tornado heading right toward them.

One year later: Rebuilding normal in Tuscaloosa and Joplin

Last year at this time, I came home to find an urgent message on the phone from my manager. “Can you be on a plane at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning?”

I could, and I was -- heading to Joplin, Missouri, after a catastrophic tornado ripped through the town in the late afternoon of May 22, 2011.

During my first day on the ground there, a Joplin resident asked me whether I’d ever seen anything like it. Sadly, I had to answer yes. It was the second time in just over a month that I’d covered the aftermath of a deadly tornado.

PHOTOS: Tornadoes slam Dallas-Fort Worth area

On April 3, a series of destructive tornadoes touched down in Dallas and Tarrant counties in Texas, causing destruction to neighborhoods and leaving many families in need. Check out these photos of the aftermath -- and how World Vision is responding from our domestic disaster response hub in North Texas, which is strategically located to deploy quickly into disaster areas across the country. (Photos by Mindy Mizell.)

Still in the blessing business

When I first laid eyes on Holt -- a community just outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala. -- just a few days after the April 27 tornado struck, what had once been a vibrant neighborhood now looked like a huge open field. It was a field filled with splintered wood, crumpled metal, broken glass, and shattered dreams.

Families sorted through the ruins looking for anything they could salvage.

GLOBAL GLIMPSE -- Disaster response in 5 hotspots around the globe

Providing you with a quick snapshot of what's happening in five hotspots around the globe -- where your generous support is literally helping people cope with and recover from disasters and crisis situations. Thank you and please continue to stand by us as we respond to multiple disasters around the world.

Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa (current)

[caption id="attachment_7560" align="alignright" width="297" caption="Children at Melkadida refugee camp in Ethiopia, where some 76,000 of the refugees fled into the border town of Dolo Ado due to the current drought in Somalia. ©2011 Gebregziabher Hadera/World Vision"][/caption]

The first UN-declared famine of the 21st century, caused by a convergence of political strife, drought, and increasing global food prices, is affecting more than 12 million people in four countries in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. More than 30,000 children from Somalia alone have perished of acute malnutrition and other related illnesses during the past three months, and hundreds of thousands have fled into refugee camps scattered throughout the region. Forecasters expect the drought to continue until December, so millions more are at risk.

To add to the misery of Somalis suffering in the drought, an epidemic of cholera has begun ravaging survivors in the Mogadishu area.

Blogger interview with World Vision on tornado response

Editor's note: On Tuesday evening, World Vision blogger Dan King conducted a Skype interview with Romanita Hairston, World Vision's vice president of U.S. programs, about how World Vision plans to help those affected by tornadoes in the U.S. Heartland, and her recent experience in the tornado zone in Joplin, Missouri.

I was sitting in the delivery room with my wife early on the morning of April 28, and we turned on the TV to pass a little time. Flipping over to the news, we saw video of a mile-wide tornado ripping through Alabama. It was part of what’s been termed the "2011 Super Outbreak." As we were about to welcome a new life into the world, our hearts broke for the victims of such a devastating storm.

Observations from Missouri's tornado zone

Editor's note: Joplin, Missouri, is a small town in the U.S. Heartland. Its official population is 50,150. But now, it is tragically smaller in every sense, after the May 22 tornado that left 122 dead, 750 injured, and more than a quarter of the town destroyed. Phyllis Freeman, our domestic emergency response director, is on the ground in Joplin.

I went looking for a school and found Irving Elementary School. It was mangled, the bricks blown apart.

You can only think about the children who lived through this, seeing the skies turn black, hearing the roar of 200-mph winds, and watching the tornado chew things up, literally.

Then they emerged to find their home gone, not knowing what’s happened to their friends, maybe their parents.

World Vision responds to tornadoes in central U.S.

Editor's note: At World Vision's office in New York, Mindy Mizell is coordinating media efforts concerning our response to recent tornadoes across the central United States.

Update, May 25, 3:44 pm: World Vision is also continuing its tornado response in Joplin, Missouri where our national domestic disaster director just completed an initial assessment of the neighborhoods impacted in Sunday’s deadly tornado.

“The damage in Joplin is every bit as devastating as what we’ve been responding to in Tuscaloosa,” said Phyllis Freeman, also a veteran of the agency's Hurricane Katrina response. “The damage is just as widespread but it’s a smaller community which means there are fewer resources for survivors to rely on.”

In the Twin Cities, World Vision staff are working with local churches, schools, and community partners throughout the area to provide clothing and emergency resources to the most vulnerable neighborhoods and communities impacted by Sunday's tornado that ripped through North Minneapolis.

“Our World Vision staff knows these neighborhoods well and we know someone has to focus on the kids,” said Chris Brooks, World Vision’s Twin Cities Field Site Director. “People are living without much of anything right now but we’re especially concerned about children in these communities falling through the cracks.”

World Vision will be relying on our Dallas warehouse to provide prepositioned supplies to Missouri. Our response for both tornadoes will be similar -- relief teams will be providing resources like personal care kits and cleaning supplies. Over the long-term, we anticipate sending bulk shipments of building supplies to help survivors in the tornado rebuilding efforts.

Update, May 24, 11:02 pm: "I arrived in Joplin earlier this evening. It's been raining heavily the entire time. Currently there are severe T-storm, flash flooding, and damaging wind warnings for several counties. All of the businesses in this particular section of the city are completely destroyed. Tomorrow morning I'll travel through neighborhoods that are opened for through traffic." -Phyllis Freeman, World Vision's domestic emergency response director in Joplin, Missouri.

Photo stories from tornado survivors

Editor's note: Here are a few of the latest photos from World Vision communicator Laura Reinhardt, in the American Southeast following the deadly tornadoes on April 27 that left survivors across the region without homes.

[caption id="attachment_4884" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Six-year-old Isaiah Walker jumps from board to board. He can still be a child despite the trauma of the tornado, which destroyed his home. ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4882" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Isaiah's mother, Veronica May, worries about the emotional effects of the tornado on all three of her children. "This is something that may be embedded in their heads for a long time, if not the rest of their lives." ©2011 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision"][/caption]

News that matters: Tornadoes, conflict minerals, maternal health

Editor's Note: This is the second post in a new, periodic series called "News that matters," meant to highlight coverage in news articles and blog posts about important, current issues that affect those living in poverty around the world.

Recent breaking-news headlines might lead you to believe that some of the less prominent stories lack significance and aren't worthy of our attention. The truth is, there are many equally critical issues that directly affect the lives of the world’s poor and dispossessed – and so many of them don’t see the kind of coverage they really deserve. I’ll let you follow the breaking news on your own, and I’ll highlight some other stories that you may not see otherwise.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these issues and others that you find interesting!

Tornadoes in the U.S. South

Late last week, the media heavily covered the damage and loss of life caused by a series of tornadoes that touched down in Alabama and other states in the American South. Although the headlines have moved on to other issues, the damage there remains. World Vision and other organizations are now part of a rebuilding effort that could take years.

Storms Ravage Alabama; Death Toll Rising Fast
Crosswalk.com, 28 April 2011
World Vision plans to begin moving in emergency supplies -- including personal hygiene items, paper supplies and even mattresses -- within 24 hours. The organization also plans to aid with rebuilding efforts, focusing on families who do not have any insurance or enough insurance to cover the damage costs.

After the storm: How you can help the South rebuild
USA Today, 28 April 2011
World Vision's domestic relief team is preparing to deploy this Saturday morning from the Dallas area to Alabama and nearby states hardest-hit by last night's storms. They plan to work with local churches and other organizations to identify families with limited means, families left destitute, or people who may have difficulty accessing other assistance.

Conflict minerals

When I started at World Vision about 10 years ago, we were part of a multi-agency campaign trying to end the trade of diamonds that were mined in several West African countries. At the time, the trade of those diamonds was used to fund related civil wars going on in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as conflicts in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We’re all still alive"

Editor's note: Last night, I received the following email from Laura Reinhardt, who is in Alabama:

The man sitting next me on the plane looked out the window as we approached Birmingham, Alabama. He pointed out the path of destruction left by the April 27 tornadoes.

“That’s the spookiest thing I ever saw,” he said. “It’s like someone took a giant vacuum cleaner to the earth.”

[caption id="attachment_4477" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="An aerial view of Tuscaloosa showing just how wide-spread the tornado damage is. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

Seeing it from the air and being kind of awed by nature’s power is one thing, but getting on the ground and seeing tin roofs curled up like ribbon, walls ripped away to reveal the inside of someone’s life, and then meeting people like 10-year-old Morgan Adams makes it all much more personal.

Morgan came to the house while I was interviewing his neighbor Connie McDonald. He told me about neighbors down the street who were worse off than they were. He’d been helping them to clean up the debris.

[caption id="attachment_4474" align="aligncenter" width="456" caption="A fallen tree on the family's old Volkswagon Beetle, the car Morgan hoped to have one day. © 2011 Laura Reinhardt/WV"][/caption]

We walked outside to look at the tree the tornado had knocked over through the roof of his family’s kitchen. He said to me: “You coming down here doesn’t bother me, but people who just drive by and almost get in a wreck staring at us, that bothers me."

When disaster strikes home

Editor's note: World Vision's Nathan Looney reports from his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, that while neighborhoods in his immediate area were spared, towns just 30 minutes north and south have been completely devastated. Nathan, who happened to be visiting his family for the Easter holiday, will connect with our incoming assessment team tomorrow as they jumpstart World Vision's response.

I’ve seen countless pictures of destruction and hundreds of video clips of unimaginable devastation. In my few years at World Vision, I’ve sat in meetings sifting through images and articles, looking for the ones that best tell the story.

At times, those pictures and stories ended up just being a tool to me, a means to educate our donors, a device to appeal for donations. Their utility masked the unique personal story that existed beyond the letters, pixels, and paragraphs.

[caption id="attachment_4416" align="alignright" width="238" caption="Residents inspect the aftermath of overnight tornadoes that left this suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, in ruins April 28, 2011. Photo: REUTERS/Marvin Gentry"][/caption]

Two days ago, my perspective changed. That’s what happens when the “before” in a stack of before-and-after photos isn’t just an image, but a place you’ve been, a place frequented by the people you love.

I had traveled home to Alabama to visit my family for Easter. On Wednesday morning, the sound of tornado sirens woke me. For the remainder of the day, the television stations pre-empted their regular programming to talk about the storm, and the even deadlier storms that could be coming that night.

It’s common in the South for the broadcast outlets to cut into programming during severe weather outbreaks, but this was the first time I had ever seen them interrupt their schedule to warn of an upcoming outbreak. The tone of the meteorologist was ominous, almost pleading.

As evening approached, so did the storms -- tornado after tornado, many of them caught by news tower cameras and traffic cameras. They were like cyclones you see barreling across a Kansas plain in a movie, except these were placed against the backdrop of a city skyline -- my city’s skyline.

World Vision responds to storms and tornadoes in American South

Editor's note: At World Vision's office in New York, Mindy Mizell is coordinating media efforts concerning our response to the deadly storms and tornadoes in the American South.

URGENT: World Vision is responding to the devastation left by deadly storms in Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Mississippi, as well as the levee break in Missouri. We are working with local partners to distribute first aid kits, hygiene supplies, and other essential products to some of the hardest-hit communities.

An assessment team is also preparing to survey the damage in Alabama and look for ways to partner with churches and other local organizations to help the most vulnerable children and families.