Latter-day Saints living in southeastern Alabama say they are anxious to begin serving and assisting their neighbors affected by a recent string of deadly tornadoes.
Rescue crews were “still in a search and rescue mode” on Tuesday, March 5 — trying to find missing people, said Columbus Georgia Stake President Steven Brown.
Once local priesthood and Relief Society leaders get the “all clear” from civil authorities, they plan to dispatch volunteers to tornado-impacted communities such as Beauregard and Smiths Station and do whatever they can to help.
The disaster “has brought our entire community together,” he added.
In the tornadoes, which claimed 23 lives and injured dozens more, one Latter-day Saint, Felicia Woodall, 22, who recently moved to Beauregard, Alabama, died in the disaster.
The tornado that devastated the Lee County community of Beauregard on Sunday, March 3, was the deadliest tornado in the United States in nearly six years. With winds estimated a 170 mph, the twister chewed an almost mile-wide path of destruction in Alabama for nearly 27 miles, the Associated Press reported.
A tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013 killed 24 people.
Sunday's disaster caused widespread destruction — decimating houses, businesses and other structures. The homes of about a half-dozen Latter-day Saint families in Alabama suffered varying levels of damage to rooftops, said President Brown. No Church properties were damaged.
A few member families displaced by the storm were staying with relatives or fellow members.
President Brown said Latter-day Saints are experiencing a mixture of feelings in the days following the tornado. They are grateful no fellow stake members were harmed, but also grieve for friends and neighbors who lost loved ones or homes.
“We hope they can find comfort and peace,” he said.
The stake president added he is also grateful that communication was generally reliable in the minutes and hours after the tornadoes. He was able to receive almost immediate text messages from his bishops updating him on the status of members across the stake.
In one ward, a bishop was conducting his Sunday ward council meeting when he got word that fallen trees had destroyed a member’s car and were blocking his driveway. The bishop immediately ended the meeting, organized an impromptu chainsaw crew and began clearing out the debris.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that no members of the Church were known to have died or been injured in the disaster. It has been updated to reflect the death of Felicia Woodall.