CAMP SILOAM – Camp Siloam’s buildings and grounds were damaged from a confirmed EF2 tornado that raked across northwest Arkansas Oct. 21.
The Oct. 21 tornado marks the second time in less than six months that Camp Siloam has sustained significant damage from a weather-related cause.
Previously, the camp experienced extensive damage to multiple buildings from straight-line winds June 23.
Jason Wilkie, Camp Siloam executive director, said the Oct. 21 event downed 40 trees, with one tree landing on Moose bunkhouse. Additionally, several trees were downed near the worship center, but it appears there was no major damage to the building.
The roof of the new Cedar Hall dining hall may have been lifted up during the storm, Wilkie said, adding that a structural engineer is scheduled to evaluate the extent of damage.
“The real blessing was that nobody was hurt,” he said. Buildings throughout the camp were occupied during the storm.
Other buildings on campus sustaining damage included the camp office, first aid station, Buffalo bunkhouse, Otter bunkhouse, Hawk staff residence and the Hummingbird staff residence, said Wilkie.
As Wilkie plans for next summer at Camp Siloam, the immediate concern is the loss of 125 beds at Moose bunkhouse. He is exploring bringing in portable buildings to house campers.
“We do believe that the Lord has a plan in this and that some good will come out of it,” said Wilkie. He said power lines that serve the camp are being re-evaluated.
“We’ve been talking to the power company about reconfiguring our power lines because we suffer power outages a lot. This might really help us restructure our power build and save some money long term.”
Arkansas Baptist disaster relief (DR) volunteers who arrived within hours to begin cleanup efforts are being housed and fed by camp staff, along with other volunteers serving in northwest Arkansas, said Wilkie.
“Our disaster relief teams have been amazing and incredibly helpful,” he said, adding that the teams are expected to be working on site another week.
According to published reports, two tornadoes were tracked Oct. 21 in the region. The first started in northeast Oklahoma and ended on the south side of Siloam Springs. A second tornado formed on the north side of Siloam Springs. The second tornado ended up being 1.5 miles wide at times, and it tracked a full 31.4 miles across Highfill, Cave Springs, Rogers and Beaver Lake. The weather service said the tornado will be recorded as the longest and largest continuous track tornado on record in northwest Arkansas.
Damage in Tyronza
In addition to damage in northwest Arkansas, an EF1 tornado caused extensive damage the same day in the area of Tyronza, where DR volunteers also responded Oct. 21-28. Tyronza is a town of about 800 people located in Poinsett County.
Damage was reported to numerous houses, an elementary school and a gas station in the town, as well as the house of Eldron Gill, pastor of First Baptist Church, Tyronza.
Randy Garrett, DR director for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC), said 84 houses in Tyronza were damaged in the tornado. He said volunteers were on the scene almost immediately following the storm.
"We make the call, and our DR volunteers come running to help their fellow Arkansans. This is what we do! What a privilege to be associated with such great Christian people," he said.
More than 100 DR volunteers served the two areas of the state. In northwest Arkansas, teams were deployed from Balboa Baptist Church, Hot Springs Village; First Baptist Church, Clarksville; Cross Church of northwest Arkansas; Faulkner Baptist Association; Northwest Baptist Association, and Wooster First Baptist Church.
In the Tyronza area, teams were deployed from Arkansas Valley Baptist Association; Beckspur Baptist Church, Beckspur; Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro; Corners Chapel Baptist Church, Corners Chapel; Tri-County Baptist Association, and Wooster First Baptist Church.
During the deployments, volunteers served 320 meals, made 162 ministry/chaplaincy contacts, and distributed eight Bibles and seven gospel tracts. One profession of faith was recorded.