April 13, 6:30 p.m.In Chattanooga, residents were cleaning up from storms today while continuing to practice social distancing and facing the likelihood of a night without electricity.
After checking on the church where he serves as senior pastor, Christ United Methodist, the Rev. Nathan Malone was in his neighbor's yard later today, helping to pick up branches. Christ UMC is undamaged but without power, he said.
"I tried to get out a couple of times today," Malone said of his East Brainerd neighborhood, but authorities asked residents in areas with high damage to stay put as many power lines and trees were still blocking roadways.
Utility workers had communicated that some residents could have electricity back on by tonight, some within two days, "and for some, it could take seven to 10 days," Malone said.
Michelle Bailey, office worker and nursery director at Christ Church, experienced a "tree in her dining room," a destroyed swing set, and power lines over her car, he said.
Also in Chattanooga, the Rev. Clair Sauer said she had managed to travel to her church, Wesley Memorial United Methodist, "where we are cleaning up a flooded basement and charging our electronics."
In addition to power outages, Wesley Memorial members are dealing with "extremely spotty" cell phone service, she said. "Communication has been extremely difficult."
Some church members suffered roof damage or lost their homes during the early-morning storm, Sauer said, "but as much as I have heard so far, all church members are safe and OK."
In the Hiwassee District, the Rev. Hugh Kilgore confirmed that no churches had been damaged.
Church leaders in communities where damage is most severe are working to help residents who may need shelter, he said. All of the actions and plans are further complicated by the need to maintain social distancing and other protective measures that will prevent coronavirus spread.
"If the needs present themselves, we're laying the plans to meet the needs," Kilgore said. "If we provide shelter to people, we also have to make plans to keep them safe."
At least two people died in Hamilton County, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Seven others have died in nearby Murray County, Georgia.
The National Weather Service in Morristown, Tennessee, said Monday afternoon that a storm survey has found EF-3 damage with winds estimated around 145 mph. One tornado estimated at nine miles long and 1,500 yards wide ripped through Hamilton and Bradley counties early on April 13.
Contact Annette Spence at firstname.lastname@example.org with more information.
April 13, 11:50 a.m.On the night after an Easter spent sheltered away from coronavirus in their homes, United Methodists in East Tennessee were among those driven out of their homes by deadly storms and at least one tornado.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported this morning that at least eight are dead, dozens are hospitalized and at least 150 buildings are damaged in Hamilton County and nearby Murray County in north Georgia. Thousands are without power and struggling with relief efforts amidst flooding, downed trees and power lines.
No damage of United Methodist churches in the Scenic South or Hiwassee Districts have yet been reported. East Ridge, East Brainerd, Collegedale and other areas in Hamilton County were badly damaged by the storm. The Cleveland Daily Banner reported that East Cleveland and other parts of Bradley County were hit.
Susan Farley, a member of First-Centenary United Methodist Church, wrote on Facebook in the early morning hours that her family was stranded on their porch in the dark, wind, and cold after a tornado demolished their home and car. Numerous attempts to connect with emergency personnel were unsuccessful, as power lines and trees made the Farley home inaccessible.
Troy Hamilton, youth pastor at First-Centenary, drove as close to the Farley home as possible and walked the remaining mile to reach the family and help them to safety.
"The Farleys are safe," Hamilton told The Call about 10 a.m. this morning. "We will be coordinating an effort to salvage valuables from their home as soon as the roads clear, which may not happen until tomorrow."
Hamilton said that parts of the East Brainerd area of Chattanooga looked like "a war zone."
- See also UM News story which includes Troy Hamilton: Easter celebrated amid storms, pandemic
Pastors of numerous churches, including the Rev. Tim Bracken of Brainerd, the Rev. Nathan Malone of Christ, and the Rev. Will Lauderback of First-Centenary, connected with their congregants through Facebook, asking if they are safe and if help is needed. Although most were safe, church members reported that trees had crushed their cars or part of their homes.
More information to come. Contact Annette Spence at email@example.com.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.