Several Alabama communities were deeply impacted as Tropical Storm Claudette moved through the state on June 19.
Ten people, nine of them children, were killed in a 17-car accident on a rain-slicked stretch of Interstate 65 in Butler County near Greenville.
The victims included a Tennessee man, his 9-month-old daughter and eight children connected 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, leading to the multicar collision.
First Baptist Church, Greenville, provided food and shelter for many who were involved in the tragedy. A post on the church’s Facebook page noted that the church provided survivors “a place out of the rain, food, transportation to hotels and hospital, prayer and spiritual guidance.”
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“Some had lost their car and possessions. Others had salvaged their luggage. Some had minor injuries, one family had lost two members of their family, but all were grateful to survive such a harrowing event. Some will need counseling to help them process the memories that are etched in their brain. To us, what we did was a minor thing, but to them it was not a little thing, it was a big thing,” the post stated.
Interim pastor Tom Daniel told WSFA News that the church had leftover VBS provisions that were readily available during the crisis.
“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.”
Claudette spawned several tornadoes in south Alabama, according to the National Weather Service. 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.
The home of Alco Baptist Church pastor Lee Jernigan and his wife, Felicia, was destroyed, according to Larry Patterson, associational missionary for Escambia Baptist Association. Both W.S. Neal High School and a mobile home park near the school also received extensive damage.
And in Tuscaloosa County, a 24-year-old father and his 3-year-old son were killed when a tree fell on their home, according to local officials. Floodwaters also 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 is providing meals for those sheltering at the church.