Christian aid groups, churches and emergency teams are pouring in to five Southern states devastated by the deadliest tornado outbreak in the country in since 1985.
Relief teams are already on site assessing the damage and needs in the hard-hit areas. Convoy of Hope is scheduled to distribute 40,000 lbs. of food, water and relief supplies Friday and residents in the local areas have volunteered to be a part of the relief efforts.
At least 57 people died and homes were demolished in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama from Tuesday night's barrage of tornadoes. President Bush declared five Tennessee counties major disaster areas and plans to visit the state Friday.
Union University in Jackson, Tenn., was among other areas that took a major blow from the storms. Seventeen buildings were damaged, including campus dorms which were reduced to piles of rubble, but no one on the Southern Baptist campus was killed. About 1,200 students live on campus.
"We've seen damage on this campus before but nothing that even comes close," David Dockery, the university president, told reporters in a televised news conference. "You see these major buildings — $20 million academic buildings — that roofs are off of them. It's hard to even think about what is in front of us in terms of rebuilding."
On Friday morning, 90.9 KCBI is conducting a major three-hour live broadcast to raise funds for disaster relief at the university. The radio station's general manager, Mike Tirone, was compelled to call for action after viewing pictures of the devastated school and interviewing several students. All donations raised during the "phone-a-thon" will be directed to Union University.
"When we saw the pictures from Union University in Jackson and heard the students share what was going on, we felt like we had to step in and help ... even from Dallas! We know that we can help, so we are going to do it," said a statement by KCBI.
After Friday's collection, Tirone will deliver a check to the university president next week.
As recovery begins, reports of remarkable survival stories are pouring in.
An 11-month old baby, Kyson Stowell, was found lying face down in the mud, 150 yards from where his home once stood. Firefighter David Harmon thought the baby was a doll at first but it moved and started crying. The baby came out of the storm unscathed.
The Rev. Doyle Farris of Hartsville Pike Church of Christ in nearby Gallatin, Tenn., said the child was a reminder that people "should never give up, even in the midst of the worst storm," according to The Associated Press.
When 49-year-old James Krueger opened the door to look out, the wind sucked the door from his hand. He dived onto the ground and the house was pulled out from under him.
"It was like God was holding my leg and beating the (expletive) out of me for everything I've done in my life," said Krueger, of Lafayette, as reported by AP. "Maybe I tried to question God too many times, but the bottom line is something kept me there."
Forecasters began warning the public six days in advance about the potential for dangerous tornadoes Tuesday, said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Storm Prediction Center, as reported by USA Today.
When the warning sirens went off, however, some residents did not take the warning sirens seriously and thus did not respond quickly. Others reported that the sirens went off just minutes before the tornadoes roared in. And then there were residents who did not have sirens at all in their neighborhood to alert them about the storms.
Up to 40 tornadoes are estimated to have touched down across the South.