Several Alabama communities were deeply impacted as Tropical Storm Claudette moved through the state June 19. At least 14 deaths were attributed to the storm statewide.
Ten people, nine of them children, were killed in a multi-car wreck on a rain-slicked stretch of Interstate 65 in Butler County near Greenville. The victims included a Tennessee man and his 9-month-old daughter and eight children with connections to the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a Christian group home in Camp Hill affiliated with the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches organization.
Authorities believe water on the road may have caused one or more vehicles to hydroplane.
First Baptist Church, Greenville, provided food and shelter to survivors after a church member serving with the local volunteer fire department realized the need to get people out of the rain. Interim pastor Tom Daniel said church members came together to help transport survivors to the church and provide minor medical care.
Place to pray
They also helped shuttle members between the church and hospital where victims were being treated.
“One lady said she just needed to go to the sanctuary to pray,” Daniel said. “Our folks were very loving and attentive to the people. Whatever they needed, we tried to do.”
Daniel said the church had leftover food from VBS that members warmed while survivors spoke with law enforcement officials.
“The Lord had allowed us to have the food and also everything that was needed and necessary to minister to the needs of the people,” Daniel said. “So we just want to praise the Lord and thank Him for preparing us even though we didn’t know we were being prepared for a tragedy like that.”
Danny Dean, director of missions for Butler County Baptist Association — along with Herbert Brown, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, Greenville, and Southside associate pastor Aaron Miller — responded by helping families at the hospital. Dean commended local emergency responders who recognized the needs of the survivors.
“They were sorting out the accident but also stopped to make sure the families were cared for,” Dean said.
He added that everyone he spoke with that day “seemed comforted by the presence of the Lord.”
Claudette also spawned several tornadoes in south Alabama.
An EF-0 tornado struck in Covington County. An EF-2 tornado did extensive damage in Escambia and Conecuh counties, hitting the town of East Brewton especially hard. At least 20 people were injured, two of them seriously.
Pastor’s home hit
The home of Alco Baptist Church pastor Lee Jernigan and his wife, Felicia, was in the path of the tornado, and the family was in their home when the tornado struck.
Back in the pulpit on June 27, Jernigan preached on the topic of battles in life and spoke briefly about his family’s experience during the storm.
“When that tornado came through my house, I said, ‘Lord spare us.’ That’s about how much time I had,” he said. “When junk’s flying around your house, you don’t say, ‘let us pray.’”
God protected his family, Jernigan said, “not just a little bit. He completely protected us. I want to be careful to give Him praise for that.”
Both W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton and a mobile home park near the school also received extensive damage.
Floodwaters forced residents of Willowbrook Trailer Park in Northport from their homes.
Some 30–40 people took shelter at Northport Baptist Church, where Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief set up shower and laundry facilities to help displaced residents and others in need of assistance.
The Red Cross provided meals for those sheltering at the church.
How to help Disaster Relief
Addressing messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting on June 16, Send Relief President Bryant Wright misspoke regarding how individuals can support state disaster relief efforts.
Wright later apologized for the confusion and clarified that Send Relief plays a support role to SBC Disaster Relief.
“The best way Southern Baptists can support their state’s disaster relief efforts is to give and volunteer through their state conventions,” a Send Relief Facebook post confirmed.
Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief is supported by gifts through the Cooperative Program, to the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering and generous donations given year-round.
Donate to ABDR any time at sbdr.org.