We then headed to Faith UMC, where Pastor Mark Rogers joined us and took us around the nearby neighborhood, where some of the worst damage occurred in the city, along with most of the 15 confirmed fatalities. (Those killed included seven members of one family; the last unaccounted-for member, a 13-year-old girl, was found Thursday.)
Like St. James and the other Bowling Green churches, the storms bypassed Rogers’s church. “How Faith got missed, I have no idea. … We were just lucky.”
The damage near the church was staggering, with entire streets reduced to piles of debris. Houses that hadn’t been leveled were tagged by crews from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who had marked homes that could be safely entered and those that couldn’t.
Some homeowners had spray-painted messages on the walls that were still standing. One message told of a missing black cat.
Rogers said he and his church have been handing out meals, snacks, and coffee in the stricken neighborhood to first responders, homeowners looking through the rubble, and whoever else they encounter.
“One person cleaning out his house, you’d think I had handed him a cup of gold,” Rogers said. “He was so thankful.”
We drove back to our starting point at St. James and then headed up the road to Madisonville, 80 miles to the northwest.
The town itself was not hit by a tornado, but it was a near miss: We could see downed trees and brush on each side of Interstate 69 about five miles south of Madisonville. It apparently was part of the same supercell that had flattened most of Mayfield, Kentucky, earlier. We arrived in the city in a driving rain.
Fairley and the Communications Team were met at Madisonville First UMC by the pastors, Rev. Drs. John and Loletuth Kalz, and Rev. Yasmel Reyes, and Rev. Dr. Wade Arp, the Pennyrile District Superintendent. Also there was Rev. Cameron Edwards of Webb Memorial/Slaughters First, who chairs the Pennyrile District’s Disaster Response Team; Jim Morse, who oversees the Conference’s Disaster Response Team; and American Red Cross representatives.