Disaster response underway in Baxter Springs


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Disaster response is underway in Baxter Springs, the southeastern Kansas town struck by a tornado on Sunday. Great Plains Conference disaster response coordinator, Linda Stewart, and our disaster response chair, Steve Burnett, are working with the Rev. Wayne Handle of First UMC in Baxter Springs and multiple agencies to coordinate rescue, relief and recovery efforts.

Bishop Scott Jones is issuing a conference-wide appeal for contributions. Give through your local church offering plate to the conference disaster response fund, with the number 975 in the memo line, or contribute online. Bishop Jones has requested an emergency grant from UMCOR of $10,000, and the opportunity to submit a larger grant once we have a better understanding of financial needs.

Three families in the congregation at First UMC had major damage to their homes, including one member Handle helped Sunday evening to move out of a destroyed home. The morning following the disaster, Rev. Handle walked the community to check on people. Destruction lies all around the neighborhood of the church, yet the only damage to the church itself was the impaling of its 4-year old roof with boards. All of the stained glass windows remain unharmed. The parsonage was not in the path of the storm. Church members cleaned up debris at the church on Monday and prepared to host the disaster response teams in spite of the lack of electricity.

At least 100 homes were damaged and perhaps 40 or more homes are totally destroyed. The homes of people least able to recover on their own are in the area hit the hardest, which means we as United Methodists have much work to do. A firm damage assessment may be available today or tomorrow.

The Great Plains Disaster Response operations site at First UMC may not have power, but they do have use of the kitchen, a spot for the shower trailer when it arrives, an office and space to store supplies. The team is preparing to participate in the Multiple Agency Resource Center (MARC) which will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily starting Wednesday. Coordinated by the Red Cross, the MARC is described as “one-stop shopping” for disaster survivors to get help. In the meantime the team is activating some of the first Early Response Teams (ERTs) and recruiting site leaders.

The first Great Plains Disaster Response ERTs will help with information and referral at the MARC, will walk the streets to conduct case management intake and will help with debris removal and tarp installation on roofs. Convoy of Hope will deliver a pallet of tarps today so the team took time yesterday to stock up on slats, nails, screws, and duct tape for use with the tarps.

Russell Anderson, Great Plains Disaster Response Regional Coordinator for the Baxter Springs area, will be on site today along with at-large Great Plains Disaster Response team member Cheri Quade and Peter Marsh of Church of the Resurrection. Early Response Teams from Wichita and Leawood, Kan., are preparing to join the efforts this week. Of all the disaster response trailers, the shower trailer, shower support trailer and tool trailer are needed ASAP. Once cases start coming in from the MARC, the Great Plains Disaster Response will be in full swing for the relief phase operations and able to open up invitation to all ERTs.

See Ian Beyer's photos from Baxter Springs

Read here for information on how the Great Plains responds to disasters.

Read here for information from UMCOR on the series of deadly tornadoes that tore through seven Southern and Midwest states on Sunday.

An update dated May 1 is posted here.

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