Disaster Report: Heavy Rains and Tornadoes Hit Midwest

Heavy rains and clusters of thunderstorms hammered across the Midwest for three days, leaving widespread flooding, fallen trees, power outages, wind damages, and at least three deaths between May 21 and 23. On May 22 alone, there were a total of 81 tornadoes that touched down over the northern plains and on May 23, 19 tornadoes were reported in Nebraska with more scattered across Iowa and Illinois.

In Iowa, the governor asked President Bush to declare 16 counties federal disaster areas, and in Nebraska, the National Guard was deployed to keep people from entering Hallam where leaking propane tanks and downed power lines created dangerous conditions.

As of May 24, several Christian humanitarian agencies deployed units to aid the victims. However, with the severity of the damages, the agencies called on Christians across the nation to aid the victims through offerings and donations.

The Church World Service – an interdenominational disaster relief group – announced that faith-based disaster coordinators, state, local and federal emergency mangagemnt and members of Voluntary organizations have been on scene to determine the full scope of the damage. The Iowa Interfaith Disaster Recovery Organization (IIDRO) will be leading the long-term faith-based recovery work in the region.

The following is the assessment of the damages as released by the Church World Service on May 24:

Iowa:

Seventeen tornadoes hit the state Saturday (May 22), one day after a tornado was reported to have destroyed most of the town of Bradgate in Humboldt County. There were two confirmed storm-related deaths-- one in Clayton County and one in Buchanan County. Governor Tom Vilsack requested a federal declaration for 16 counties.

The full scope of structural damage is not known. However preliminary reports confirm at least 2 homes destroyed and 30 severely damaged, with another 12 having between 25-40 percent structural damage. So far, officials have determined at least eight homeowners with no insurance. More than 36 counties are reporting impact. - 44 homes - total

All rivers in the northern half of the state are at flood stage or higher. At least 100 homes are in danger of being flooded if there is further rain. Rain is in the forecast through Tuesday.

Nebraska:

One person died on Saturday, after at least one F-3 tornado with 150-200 mph winds touched down in Lancaster County, near Lincoln. Hallam, a town with about 275 residents suffered "near devastation" according to Governor Mike Johanns. Federal and state emergency management officials continue to conduct damage assessments. Rain is in the forecast through today.

Michigan:

Three people died--one in Berrien and two in St. Joseph County as a result of falling trees. Flooding has affected Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. There is widespread basement and sewer flooding. Many homeowners do not have flood insurance. At least one tornado reportedly touched down near Montrose in rural Genesee County, between Flint and Saginaw.

Ohio:

Flooding was blamed for at least one traffic death in Ohio. Some 73,000 customers lost power during the weekend. Floods have overwhelmed at least seven northeastern and two southeastern counties. Counties currently reporting the most impact: Cuyahoga, Trumbull, Summit, Athens and Perry. There is potential for mudslides in Summit County.

West Virginia:

About 44,000 customers lost power over the weekend. Trees and utility poles were toppled and at least 17 homes were damaged or destroyed by the storms. Wind gusts up to 80 mph were reported.

Pennsylvania:

About 5,000 customers lost power over the weekend. Flooding forced the evacuation of dozens of homes along the Ohio border northwest of Pittsburgh and some in Darlington, Pa.

Illinois:

Unusual amounts of rain and high winds have also been common across northern Illinois and into Indiana. Officials are predicting that the Des Plaines and Fox Rivers in the northeastern part of the state will crest at 5 feet over flood stage on Wednesday. Lake and McHenry are the most vulnerable counties, where between 1,200 and 3,000 homes in 15-20 towns could be affected if the expected flooding occurs.

For more information about the flooding or other disasters, or to make a credit card contribution to the effort, please visit www.churchworldservice.org or phone (800) 297-1516. Checks or money orders can be sent to:
Church World Service
P.O. Box 968
Elkhart, IN, 46515.