UPDATED! Come back regularly for new information

December 11, 2021

The following information is from Jim Morse, the Conference’s Disaster Response Coordinator, which he shared with his disaster-response teams. Updates from Jim will be posted on our social media channels throughout the day as more details on the damage and loss of life emerge:

12/15/2021 Update

Dec. 15 update from Jim Morse, Disaster Response Coordinator, and his team:
A reminder from Morse: “If you have donations, please contact the center you wish to deliver to and confirm the need of what you want to donate and when they can receive it.”
South Central District
Bowling Green Tornado Relief Plan

Local pastors met Monday morning with Rev. Mark Dickinson, the District Superintendent, to share what each church was doing and make sure everyone was on the same page.  None of the churches were damaged even with two of them in a direct plan of the storm.  What each church is doing:

• Broadway UMC – Set up a tornado relief page on its website to inform and coordinate efforts of the church.  Hosting a work crew from Michigan that arrived without much notice. Cleanup crews have been out the past two days to specific addresses and needs.  
• Christ UMC – Will be hosting groups from out of the area.  Should be ready to go by the first of the week.
• St James UMC – Teams have been out since Sunday helping out in their neighborhood. Their neighborhood was hit pretty hard. Bag lunches were handed out. Collecting funds in a designated account for relief. They will be a hub for work teams that will come in since they are in a central location. They are putting together plans for long-term recovery for their neighborhood.
• Faith UMC – Food pantry in full operation since they are in a central location for relief. They will also be open to housing teams that could come since they are right across the street from some of the worst-hit areas. Teams have been out giving coffee and food to the first responders.  
• State Street UMC – Several members have had their homes destroyed so they are helping with them. They are delivering food to first responders in those areas. They will also be hosting groups up to 15 people.    

Pennyrile District
• Government and agencies in Hopkins County are coordinating tornado relief and related services: “If you know of or are coordinating the delivery of a corporate donation or large donation coming by semi or box truck, please contact Ruthann Padgett (Madisonville Hopkins County EDC) at (270) 821-1939 to schedule delivery. Bulk items at the hub will be dispersed throughout Hopkins County to locations in need.”
• Madisonville First UMC remains open as an emergency shelter in cooperation with the Red Cross and is also collecting donations. The contact number is (270) 821-5734.
• In Princeton, the Butler gym is open as a shelter to anyone who needs a place to stay overnight. Volunteers are currently on site. Cots and other resources will be available. That site also is accepting donations. Current needs include bottled water, baby diapers/wipes, and feminine hygiene products. If you would like to volunteer, call (270) 963-3727.
• According to Kentucky State Sen. Danny Carroll, there is an urgent need at Kentucky Dam Village for volunteers in food services, housekeeping and maintenance. Carroll added that Kenlake State Resort Park needs volunteers in food services. If you are interested in volunteering, send an email to andy.kasitz@ky.gov. You can also call Kentucky Dam Village at (270) 362-4271, and Kenlake State Resort Park at (270) 474-2211.

Owensboro District
Ohio County had 50 homes destroyed and others damaged. Officials were starting to assess needs Wednesday.  We are setting up a meeting for Sunday afternoon to begin training local volunteers to oversee long-term recovery.  

Bluegrass District
Rev. Dr. Tina Patterson, the District Superintendent, and David Pratt, District Disaster Response Coordinator, are working with Taylor County about the needs there.  Much of the damage there is non-structural, but the debris cleanup for the farmers and farms to protect their operations and livelihoods are a major concern.  Pratt will be in touch with various groups in the Bluegrass and surrounding districts as he is notified of specific work needed.


12/14/21 Update How to Help

The Conference has started getting many offers for various types of assistance. According to Jim Morse, Disaster Services Coordinator, these are the best ways for our churches and individuals to respond:

  • Send checks to: Kentucky Annual Conference; Attn: Treasurer; 7400 Floydsburg Road; Crestwood, KY 40014. On the memo line, please put: “Disaster Response: Advance 200902.”
  • You can also give electronically via our secure online giving portal.
  • Donations for Mayfield UMC, which is in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference, can be sent to http://twkumc.org/disaster-response/. (Both Conferences are working closely together on disaster relief and will soon set up a mutual cooperation structure.)
  • Donations also can be sent online to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, at: https://umcmission.org/advance-project/901670/
Pastors and other church disaster-response leaders should contact their district representative on the Disaster Response Team to coordinate efforts on any relief teams or other non-financial assistance your generous members want to provide. Those reps are:

Crisis Cleanup is offering help in cleaning up from the Dec. 10-11 storms. The home cleanup hotline is: (800) 451-1954 to speak with volunteers from local relief organizations, community groups and churches who can provide free assistance.

Services available include fallen tree removal; drywall, flooring and appliance removal; roof tarping; and mold mitigation.

The hotline will be open through Dec. 24.

12/11/21 Update 

Mayfield, south of Paducah, is located in the annual conference that soon will be renamed the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference. Bishop Fairley has been in touch with his counterpart there, Bishop William T. McAlilly, and Jim Morse has been in touch with his Disaster Services counterpart, as well.

Mayfield First United Methodist Church has been heavily damaged. Here is a link to a message posted on the church’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MayfieldFirst/
Much of the disaster areas are still in emergency/rescue mode.  Morse expects that this may continue for the next 24 to 48 hours and possibly longer. Information coming from the areas tends to be limited and sometimes chaotic. It is vitally important that we gather good information and share that information correctly.

Any churches that are providing relief efforts and community support should let Morse know at jmorse@kyumc.org. Currently, Madisonville First UMC has offered its facilities as a shelter location and possible United Methodist Committee on Relief distribution site. Also, Webb Memorial UMC has brought bedding and hygiene supplies to Madisonville First.

Kentucky Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster finished its preliminary coordination call this morning; more than 50 people were on the call representing over 40 agencies and denominations that are mobilizing to provide relief and assist in recovery efforts. 

The majority of the local and national news has focused on Mayfield because of the tremendous damage there, but areas east of there, stretching past Bowling Green, also have been hard hit. We are still working to gather information from those parts of the state. Early indications are that Western Kentucky University was largely spared damage and that no students lost their lives.
There are reports that the Corvette plant in Bowling Green was on fire. The roof was ripped off overnight and some of the power lines or robots were damaged, causing electrical sparks and the fire.

The American Red Cross is operating three shelters throughout the area:

  • Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah.

  • Cave Land Church in Cave City.

  • South Warren High School in Bowling Green/Warren County.

Other efforts that we are aware of:

  • The Salvation Army has been asked to provide lunch and supper at Dawson Springs Elementary and at the Pennyrile State Park for today.

  • Kentucky Baptists are mobilizing to provide feeding in several locations, with exact locations and times to be determined.

  • Crisis Cleanup, a nonprofit volunteer organization, is opening an incident with a special number for survivors to call to register for cleanup assistance. Volunteers will be needed; if people are interested, they can email Morse for details about training. 

We will continue to update as we receive more information.

Want to help? Read this first

Things that local churches and the districts should consider about future needs in relief and recovery efforts, from Jim Morse, the Conference’s Disaster Services Coordinator:
  • There will be many local services and efforts that will be initiated. Local churches should make themselves aware of these services and efforts to be able to provide and confirm good information to the survivors. We can provide some “just in time” training and guidance for churches that want to get out into their communities and provide this information as an outreach.
  • There will be multiple distribution sites established to manage immediate needs and donations to the area.  How can local churches support these operations in their communities?
  • The Salvation Army, Kentucky Baptists, and Operation BBQ Relief are all gearing up to provide meals in various areas.  Can the local United Methodist churches help these operations?
  • Survivors will need spiritual and emotional care and support.  Are there trained local resources available to support these needs? This type of support and care is not for everyone. It is very easy, despite the best of intentions, to say or do something that is hurtful or damaging to a survivor. Learn the local resources for proper referral when necessary.
  • Once public safety and governmental officials allow nonresidents into the impacted areas, there will be an influx of volunteers. Can our local churches help with hospitality, a place for the volunteers to sleep, and other support? This type of hospitality may also apply to incoming utility crews coming in for mutual aid support.
  • Even though the disaster is less than 24 hours old, we need to be looking toward eventual recovery efforts.  How can the local church be part of the local community’s recovery efforts? 
  • As things transition from rescue/emergency to relief operations and then to recovery efforts, there will be a need in each community for local people to be involved. This may include communication and also coordination of volunteers, distribution, planning, administrative duties, and other functions. There will be work for almost any age that does not involve climbing ladders or rebuilding homes but support those efforts. Who in our local congregations might fit those roles?
  • Most important, local churches should not feel that they are alone in this.  If there is a need, let your District Superintendent know, and let Morse know at jmorse@kyumc.org so the Conference’s Disaster Services Team can celebrate and share your successes and do what we can to help in the need.

As we wake this morning, we will be seeing tremendous damages throughout western and central Kentucky from the storms overnight. As of about 8 a.m. EST, here is the initial information that I have from media:

  • Several long-duration tornadoes have struck western Kentucky from Mayfield to almost Owensboro.
  • Gov. Andy Beshear has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard and Kentucky State Police.
  • Current fatality estimates are in excess of 50.
  • Mayfield (Tennessee/Memphis Conference) has tremendous damage from one and possibly two tornadoes.
  • Tornadoes have also been reported in the Bowling Green and Taylorsville areas.
  • We know of tornado or other high wind damage in the following counties: Fulton, Hickman, Graves, Marshall, Lyon, Caldwell, Hopkins, Muhlenberg, Breckinridge, Ohio, Bullitt, Spencer, Shelby, Logan, Christian, Warren, Edmonson, Taylor and Marion.

Morse told the disaster-response team members: “Make sure of your own safety and that of your families. You won’t be effective in any disaster response ministries until you know your family is safe and secure. Once you have done that, please reach out to your congregations to check their welfare and damages, not just to church and congregation but to their communities as well.”
Information that the Conference’s Disaster Response Team need includes, but is not limited to:

  • Scope of the local damage.
  • Estimate of people impacted.
  • Type of damage.
  • Local responses by government and emergency services.
  • Local responses/ministries being provided by churches and service groups.
  • Immediate needs.

Morse was planning to participate in a Zoom call with Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster partners to share and gather information as that group begins to coordinate the response.
We all will be getting questions of “What can I do to help?”  The  best quick answer: 

  • Pray.
  • If you wish to contribute, contribute money locally, to the Conference, or to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Do not send clothing.
  • Bide.  It is going to take several days to determine the scope of this disaster and what our responses will be. Give the communities time to determine what is needed. 
  • If people want to volunteer to help in the disaster areas, then prepare to go when the community asks for volunteers. Plan to be as self-sufficient as possible so in the volunteering you use as few local resources as possible.

“It will be especially important that all of our congregations have as normal as possible worship service tomorrow in spite of any damages to churches,” Morse wrote. “We need to be there for our congregations and our communities.”
Morse concluded with words from Psalm 30:1-5 (NIV):
I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Morse concluded: “My prayer is for our actions to be our song of praise to the Lord and that our active presence can be part of changing tears to rejoicing. This is going to be a long process and a lot of hard work.”