Disaster Teams Respond to Severe Storms in Several States

Salvation Army disaster relief teams rolled into action after a series of winter storms swept across the southern U.S., taking at least 20 lives and causing widespread destruction from Mississippi to the Carolinas Jan. 21-22.

The Army dispatched mobile canteens in both the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi and Georgia divisions. Also, a tornado that touched down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, did significant damage to the corps there.

The ALM Division sent canteens and catering trucks to provide food service in Forrest and Lamar counties. Also, the Laurel, Mississippi, canteen was deployed in Choctaw County on Alabama’s western border.

In Georgia, some of the most severe damage occurred in Berrien, Brooks and Cook counties in the southern part of the state. On the evening of Jan. 22, more than 17,000 Georgians were without power, and Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency across seven counties. Salvation Army disaster canteens from Albany, Bainbridge, Columbus and Elberton served in Albany, in Daugherty County, and a disaster team from Valdosta was sent to Cook County.

Additional canteens from the Georgia Division were on standby to provide services as needed.

Fifteen clients were staying in the Salvation Army shelter in Hattiesburg when a tornado rumbled through Forrest and Lamar counties early on the morning of Sat, Jan. 21, ravaging the Army’s facilities, which include a chapel, administrative offices and the Boys and Girls Club, including a gymnasium. All had roof and water damage.

“You look around this campus at what buildings received the most damage. It’s a mess, but the shelter was mostly spared,” said Captain Patrick Connelly, Hattiesburg corps officer. “These are just buildings. These are just things. They are not all the Army is. We will continue to do what we do, and that is help the community recover.”

The Salvation Army was the first service organization to offer help in the form of meals, as volunteers from the Hattiesburg Corps distributed food to affected residents in the area.

“It means the world,” said Melissa Bagett. “We are all having to do a lot of work out here and don’t have time to eat. It’s appreciated.” Mike Bagett agreed. “It helps. It tells me the community understands you need sustenance after something like this,” he said.

Captains Patrick and Stacey Connelly, meanwhile, will improvise along with their neighbors as they direct the relief and recovery effort – the Army’s are temporarily unusable due to storm damage, so they will work from a portable office facility for several months until repairs can be completed.