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Baptists respond to Fort Worth tornadoes with food, counselingcomment (0)

April 6, 2000


Tarrant County Baptists quickly responded with food and counseling to victims of rush-hour tornadoes that devastated parts of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas, March 28.

The storm hit shortly after 6 p.m., doing the most damage to the downtown area. The same tornado, or another, more powerful twister, struck glancing blows at South Arlington and portions of Grand Prairie.

Five people were killed, two in storm damage, one in a storm-related traffic accident and two to drowning. More than 100 were injured, several seriously, and property damage was in the millions of dollars. Financial loss just in the downtown area has been estimated at more than $175 million.

Officials said the death toll would have been much higher had the tornado hit an hour earlier, before workers had left for home.

After dancing close to the ground in the near northwest side of downtown, the storm touched down in an area that houses the Fort Worth Stock Show and the city’s famous art museums. It wiped out businesses, warehouses and a small low-income residential area near the Trinity River. It hit several downtown buildings, including Calvary Cathedral – which formerly was First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, founded by J. Frank Norris.

More than 100 people were in the church, at least two in the prayer tower, which was devastated by the winds. No one was injured.

The storm then hit residential sections south of Interstate 20.

Relief unit dispatched

The Tarrant Baptist Association activated its disaster relief unit – a truck and 30-foot trailer – about midmorning March 29 at the request of the Arlington Police Department.

Staffed by 10 volunteers, and a like number of helpers from Mission Arlington, the unit was moved into a devastated upscale neighborhood.

Many of the homes were nearly destroyed, with torn-away roofs, broken windows and other damage. Others had only minimal damage.

Bobby Cox, director of church and community ministries for Tarrant Baptist Association, said the unit fixed and prepared more than 1,000 meals March 29.

Cox said the American Red Cross requested Baptists move the unit back to the campus of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. It was scheduled to prepare 3,000 meals March 30-31, which were to be transported to relief workers and victims across the county.

Cox said volunteer counselors were dispatched to the Will Rogers Coliseum where about 175 victims were given emergency shelter. The counselors were on hand to help with the emotional trauma.

Tom Law, director of missions for the association, said early reports indicate no member church was damaged by the storm or the flooding which followed in some areas.

Also, neither of the Southern Baptist Convention agencies were damaged: Southwestern Seminary or the broadcast division of the North American Mission Board (formerly the Radio-Television Commission).

To make contributions, contact the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions at 1-800-264-1225. (BP)

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