Washington, Ill. | Joshua Monda stood just outside his church Sunday morning, watching a powerful tornado churn on the horizon a half a mile away. He shot video with his cell phone before calling the few other church members standing outside to get inside. Sirens sound just as the video ends.
Twenty-four hours later, Monda stands in a WalMart parking lot in a part of Washington not blocked by police and first responders. Pastor Monda made it to First Baptist Church briefly that morning, but his office is on the move as he tries to meet immediate needs in the aftermath of an EF-4 tornado that flattened parts of Washington. Several other communities all over the state suffered fatalities and severe damage from tornadoes on November 17.
A chainsaw team from Sullivan Southern Baptist Church was in Washington two days after the storm, and others are on standby to help as needs become clear. Disaster Relief volunteers set up a feeding trailer at Woodland Baptist Church in Peoria, preparing more than 1,000 lunches and dinners for responders and residents in Washington.
Volunteers also moved quickly into several other communities affected by the swath of severe weather that wreaked havoc all over the Midwest, doing its worst in Illinois. Pekin and other Peoria-area communities reported damage, as did Diamond and Coal City, 100 miles to the northeast. In New Minden, seven miles north of Nashville, Ill., officials reported two storm-related deaths.
In extreme southern Illinois, First Baptist Church in Metropolis served as a Red Cross shelter for families who lost their homes in tiny Brookport, where an EF-3 tornado killed three people. Church members cooked 300 meals a day for victims and relief workers.
Chainsaw teams also began working in the Brookport and New Minden areas last week. “I am so grateful for our volunteers who have taken the time to prepare to respond during a disaster,” said Rex Alexander, IBSA’s Disaster Relief coordinator. “When a disaster strikes there are many people with good hearts that want to help. But we primarily rely on those who have been trained to help.”