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CARAWAY - Two Arkansas Baptist churches were damaged by a tornado that reportedly touched down near Caraway Oct. 31. The roof of the main building at First Baptist Church, Caraway, was blown off, according to Bill Cantrell, Arkansas Baptist State Convention disaster relief director. New Hope Baptist Church near Caraway also received damaged as well. The extent of the damage to New Hope is not known at this time.
The feeding unit of Current-Gaines Baptist Association, Corning, is being deployed, as is the shower unit of Mt. Zion Baptist Association, Cantrell said. Recovery units from Walnut Street Baptist Church and Tri-County Baptist Association also are headed to the area.
Cantrell said all units were in place and serving Friday, Nov. 1, with the Current-Gaines feeding unit preparing and serving 500 meals.
No one was injured in the storm, Caraway Police Chief William Hicks told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. For a time, give Hicks said Caraway children who were trick-or-treating for Halloween were reported missing. They were found later in a resident’s storm cellar where they sought refuge.
“We were lucky,” Hicks told the Democrat-Gazette, referring to the town being spared from injuries.
A National Weather Service survey crew from Memphis that inspected damage confirmed Friday afternoon that an EF1 tornado cut through the town about 7 p.m. Thursday as a cold front crossed eastern Arkansas, the newspaper reported.
“It was a well-developed storm,” the Democrat-Gazette quoted weather service meteorologist Tom Salem of Memphis as saying. “Before the tornado came, there were straightline winds in front of it.”
The Arkansas Baptist News will post more updates as they are available.
Two Arkansas churches damaged by tornado
CARAWAY – Disaster relief volunteers from three associations and two churches responded following a tornado Oct. 31 that caused extensive damage to two Arkansas Baptist churches in Caraway.
While no serious injuries were reported in the community, the roof of the main building of First Baptist Church, Caraway, was blown off, according to Bill Cantrell, Arkansas Baptist State Convention disaster relief director. New Hope Baptist Church in Caraway was damaged extensively by the storm.
Heath Hawkins, pastor of New Hope Baptist, described damage incurred at the church.
"We lost our adult education wing completely and the roof across the entire back side of our church. Our children's Sunday school wing was destroyed. Part of the roof over our family life center was ripped off and there was some other damage there as well. Our marquee was completely destroyed," said Hawkins.
"This week we are in that phase where we are trying to figure out if the damage is going to be extensive enough where we have to tear down and start over. … Neither of our buildings are usable," he added.
The pastor said the church’s Wednesday night children’s program plans to meet at a local school for now, but as for Sunday services no plan was in place as of press time.
"On Wednesday night we have a huge children and youth program that often includes 60 children and youth and our school is going to allow us to use the gymnasium (Riverside High School, Caraway) for a time. We are still talking about where to meet on Sundays, that is still up in the air," said Hawkins.
Hawkins said the Caraway community is responding to assist the church.
“The response of the community it has been an incredible outpour of support. At the height of the cleanup it seemed like people from across the community were converging on house after house to help them clean up debris and help them remove trees,” he said.
“We have experienced the same thing out at our church. When I put the call out that we were ready to start the debris removal, we did have services there on Sunday, we did it without any electricity but we did have Sunday services there, and again people were there to help with debris removal and cleanup.”
Rick Stevens, pastor of First Baptist Church, Caraway, said the church’s roof was damaged extensively.
"We had a lot of roof damage. It peeled back our metal roof and exposed it to some water damage. We had some water damage in some of our classrooms and our auditorium has some major problems. We are not really sure about the structure itself,” said Stevens.
“We are just in the preliminary stages of getting an engineer and our insurance to come out and make sure we don't have any structural damage. … It’s going to be a major reconstruction.”
Stevens said the church has moved services into its fellowship hall, where they plan to stay while their other building is being repaired.
“It didn't receive any structural or roof damage,” he said.
The pastor said he and his congregation are thankful there were no injuries from the tornado.
“That has been a pillow and a foundation that has provided people with a feeling of thanksgiving and praise for God for that. Everybody pitched in from the church, the town, the county and the state,” Stevens said. “If you went through and looked at it now it doesn't look anything like it did right after the tornado as far as everything being cleaned up. … It has been a blessing to have so much response from so many areas."
Arkansas Baptist disaster relief volunteers were on the scene within hours assisting with recovery efforts, said Cantrell.
In all, 1,870 meals were prepared and served by the Current-Gaines Baptist Association feeding unit to people displaced by the tornado and to recovery workers. Chain saw crews completed seven jobs and two roofs were covered with tarp, said Cantrell.
“We know of eight ministry contacts,” Cantrell added. “(We are) waiting to hear of others.”
Other units responding to Caraway were shower units from the Mt. Zion Baptist Association and Tri-County Baptist Association. Walnut Street Baptist Church and Central Baptist Church, both in Jonesboro, sent recovery units to the scene.
A National Weather Service survey crew from Memphis that inspected damage said that an EF1 tornado cut through the town about 7 p.m. Oct. 31 as a cold front crossed eastern Arkansas, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
“It was a well-developed storm,” weather service meteorologist Tom Salem told the newspaper. “Before the tornado came, there were straightline winds in front of it.”