The National Weather Service said the tornado that hit the Oak Grove community southwest of Birmingham and ripped northeastward through Center Point, Trussville and Clay was in the EF-3 category, with winds of 150 mph. The two victims were an 81-year-old man in Oak Grove and a 16-year-old girl in Clay.
In addition to the two deaths, more than 100 people were injured, with 22 hospitalized, and some 500 homes damaged or destroyed in Jefferson County by the rare January tornado, according to news reports. Fifty businesses were damaged and Center Point Elementary School was leveled.
A second tornado -- labeled as an EF-2 tornado -- ripped through Chilton County in south-central Alabama, heavily damaging several dozen houses and businesses but claiming no lives. A third tornado, also an EF-2, touched down in Tuscaloosa County.
Less than a year ago -- on April 27, 2011 -- historic killer tornadoes claimed 248 lives in Alabama, most in the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas.
Tommy Puckett, longtime disaster relief specialist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said First Baptist Church-Center Point will be the base for Southern Baptists' response to the latest tornado damage in the northeast Birmingham area.
"The Birmingham Baptist Association is setting up its mobile feeding kitchen at First Baptist and is gearing up to serve 1,000 meals a day, starting with supper tonight," Puckett said. In addition, an onsite coordinator and assessment teams from the nearby St. Clair Baptist Association were slated to comb the Center Point/Trussville areas Tuesday (Jan. 24), assessing recovery needs.
The Bessemer Baptist Association is working in the Oak Grove community just west of Birmingham, while the Chilton County and Selma Baptist associations are doing assessment and some recovery work in the hard-hit Maplesville area near Clanton, Ala.
Puckett applauded Southern Baptist churches and others who were quick to volunteer in the wake of Monday's tornadoes. "Our Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are trained and experienced in responding to such emergencies.
"Baptists should pray for the victims directly affected by the tornadoes and for the safety of our volunteers as they move in, and especially for opportunities to share the Gospel with homeowners," Puckett said.
Tornadoes with 111-135 mph winds also touched down last Sunday night near Fordyce, Ark., where Arkansas Baptists have deployed two recovery teams.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. For regular updates about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit http://www.namb.net/subscribe-dr-enewsletter to subscribe. Donations can be made to state Baptist conventions for disaster relief or to SBDR. Donations are tax-deductible, with 100 percent of gifts used to meet the needs of hurting people in the wake of disasters. Donations can be made online at http://www.namb.net/givenow by phone 1-866-407-6262 or by mail. Checks should be made payable to "North American Mission Board" and sent to Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net