JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City expressed gratitude that lives were spared and that all residents of the Missouri capital are accounted for following a devastating tornado. The tornado was part of a string of devastating storms from Texas to Illinois that took place over several days in late May.
Bishop McKnight wrote in a statement May 23 that the staff of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri were assessing the needs of residents. Some people were forced from their homes as the storm swept through the city of 43,000 just before midnight May 22.
“Please continue to pray with us, for those who have suffered from this natural disaster and also for those who are coming to their assistance,” Bishop McKnight stated.
A spokeswoman for Catholic Charities USA said the agency was working with local Catholic Charities to assess how to best respond to people affected by the storm.
A violent line of thunderstorms that spawned the tornadoes May 22 killed three people in southwest Missouri and caused minor injuries to at least 20 people in Jefferson City, authorities said. Some people in the capital were trapped in their homes or apartments and had to be assisted by safety forces.
CCUSA also is weighing its response in areas of northeast Oklahoma and elsewhere, where residents have been displaced by flooding caused by days of heavy rain. Flood waters continue to rise toward record or near-record crests in the St. Louis area. Tornadoes and heavy rain struck areas in Ohio, killing at least one, on May 27. Tornadoes hit the Kansas City area May 28. According to the Associated Press, May 28 was the 13th day of severe storms in the United States, with an average of 27 tornadoes ocurring each day.
In Jefferson City, the most severe damage occurred in a three-square-mile area south and east of the central part of the Missouri capital, Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams told reporters.
Homes, apartments and businesses lost roofs and windows. Power lines were down and trees and other debris blocked roads, hampering the initial emergency response. Some scaffolding erected around the Missouri State Capitol for renovation work was damaged, but the building escaped unscathed.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson expressed his sadness over the devastation from the storms and offered his prayers for victims and support to Bishop McKnight and the Diocese of Jefferson City. “Let us pray and ask for the Lord’s comfort for all those impacted by these storms and for the responders who are a beacon of hope in this time of need,” Archbishop Carlson wrote in a statement.
“I am profoundly saddened by the loss of life and the damage caused by the tornadoes and storms throughout the Midwest and related regions these past few days,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
On May 24, Bishop Dewane called for “prayers for the victims and their grieving families and communities” affected by devastating storms from Texas to Illinois.
“As of this writing, millions of people in at least seven states have been affected by the powerful winds, rainfall and rising water levels caused by these conditions,” he said in a statement.
Bishop Dewane noted that at least seven people have been killed in Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma. Severe weather was expected to continue “in this devastated area” in the days ahead, he added.
“We are grateful that Catholic Charities and other organizations are in place working to provide for emergency needs” and to help people rebuild their lives and homes,” he said.
>> How to help
Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri is accepting financial donation at its website, cccnmo.org/donate, or at the diocesan website, diojeffcity.org. All donations will go directly to relief efforts, not only for the victims of the tornado, but also for those affected by flooding along the Missouri and its major tributaries.
The Catholic Charities USA website — www.catholiccharitiesusa.org — has information about its efforts to help communities hit hard by the storms.