Powerful storms rip through central Florida

Army mobilized.


A Salvation Army volunteer loads items onto a canteen. Five canteens were sent out to Lake and Volusia counties during recent storms in Florida.

The Salvation Army responded to a string of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes with winds up to 165 mph that battered central Florida the first week in February, killing at least 20 people.

“We have been out providing physical and spiritual care,” said Major Otis Childs, corps officer in Ocala, Fla. “The Salvation Army held a worship service at the disaster site on Sunday with members of the church, residents, rescue workers and National Guard members. We are walking from place to place praying with people and letting residents know service is available.”

The deadliest combination of thunderstorms and tornados to hit Florida in nearly a decade cut a 40-mile path of destruction through four counties —lifting roofs off homes, collapsing chimneys, ripping down exterior walls and pulling oak trees out of the ground—leaving hundreds of homes in shambles and terrorizing one of the nation’s biggest retirement communities.

President Bush has since declared four central Florida counties disaster areas.

With five mobile canteens, Salvation Army teams from Jacksonville, Ocala, Daytona Beach, Citrus County and Leesburg worked together to help affected residents and teams of emergency responders and has since served more than 6,800 meals.

In addition, Army officers are available at mobile canteens to offer spiritual counseling, comfort and guidance to residents and rescue workers.

The Salvation Army is also working with the Lake County Amateur Radio Association and Amateur Radio Emergency Services to provide communication between residents and their families.

“The Salvation Army will continue to meet the immediate needs of the communities. We are making our assessments and moving toward recovery efforts,” said Trey Jones, disaster services director for The Salvation Army.

Childs said the focus now is on evaluating the disaster areas and preparing for the long-term recovery phase.
This is the second time in two months Central Florida has been struck by severe storms. The first time was in December when several tornados ripped through the area, causing structural damage, but no fatalities.

By Christin Davis; compiled from Salvation Army news releases


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