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Dallas-area twisters hit UM Church Sam Hodges, Apr 4, 2012
By Sam Hodges Managing Editor
St. Barnabas UMC in Arlington, Texas, was badly damaged in the April 3 tornadoes that swept across the Dallas area.
“The sanctuary took the brunt,” said Vance Morton, director of communications for the Central Texas Conference.
That building’s roof was nearly ripped off, he said. The sanctuary also had blown out stained-glass windows and water damage.
No one was injured.
As the storms approached, the church’s daycare/pre-school was in session in another building on campus. Church staff and teachers put into effect an emergency plan, shepherding more than 80 children, toddlers to 5-year-olds, from classrooms to the building’s safer interior.
“We just waited,” Amy Richardson, director of the church’s Early Education Center, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We had pastors coming in to tell us when to duck and cover. . . . But the kids were very calm. Some of them got upset when the power went out.”
Ms. Richardson also told the paper: “Our plan worked. It’s nice to have a plan.”
Bishop Mike Lowry of the Central Texas Conference reported in his blog that the Rev. Will Cotton, the church's pastor, helped lead the children to safety and that they all sang "Jesus Loves Me" as they went.
The church planned to have Easter services at an alternate location, and several local churches volunteered to be host, Mr. Morton said.
North Texas Conference officials were hoping to provide relief through early response teams to the hard-hit areas of Lancaster and Forney. But damage was so severe that police were limiting access.
The conference reported numerous calls from United Methodists eager to help.
Tom Hazelwood, a top disaster response official with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), said he had been in touch with the North Texas and Central Texas Conferences. He said he was ready to receive any request for an emergency grant to help those affected by the tornadoes.
The tornadoes damaged about 650 homes, and caused about 150 people to spend the night in emergency shelters, the Dallas Morning News reported.
About 90 homes in Arlington alone were leveled, and the mayor declared that city a disaster area, the paper said.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport as airlines had mechanics inspect for hail damage.
Early estimates were that between 15 and 19 tornadoes hit the Forney, Lancaster and Arlington/Kennedale areas.
The photo above shows the interior of the damaged St. Barnabas sanctuary.