Knights Respond to Tornado Relief Efforts

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4/12/2011

Knights have contributed funds and manpower in the wake of storms in Iowa and North Carolina.

by Patrick Scalisi

Devastating tornadoes in the southern and midwestern parts of the United States have prompted an impressive local response from K of C councils, coupled with substantial donations by the Supreme Council to aid disaster relief efforts.

When an F3 tornado ripped through Mapleton, Iowa, on April 9, Knights from the Council Bluffs area traveled 80 miles to assist with the clean-up effort. A good portion of their work centered around St. Mary’s Church – the home parish of State Chaplain Father Brian J. Danner – and its associated cemetery.

While earthquakes are measured on a scale that is widely known, the method for measuring the intensity of tornadoes is less familiar to the general public. Developed in 1971 by T. Theodore Fujita of the University of Chicago, the Fujita Scale ranges from F0 (described as a tornado that causes “light damage”) to F5 (“incredible damage”).

As such, the characteristics of the F3 Mapleton tornado are described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association as causing “severe damage” with “roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted; and heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown.”

This was certainly the case at St. Mary’s, where trees and flying debris caused damage to the church. Even though the structure itself was relatively unharmed, the church’s slate roof needed to be stripped down to its plywood base. Likewise, broken trees littered the cemetery grounds.

While the Knights from Council Bluffs attacked the clean-up site with chainsaws and wood chippers, Onawa-Blencoe Council 6249 took a slightly different approach. Members of Council 6249 obtained and delivered hundreds of dollars worth of food and water to the church for distribution to residents who lost their homes or belongings in the disaster. The Sioux City Journal reported April 17 that two-thirds of the homes in Mapleton were damaged during the tornado.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Council authorized a $10,000 donation from the Order’s disaster assistance fund at the request of Iowa State Deputy Michael Laake. The money is being used to provide rapid assistance to members and their families, as well as to priests and religious, for food, shelter and immediate need items.

The Supreme Council also donated $20,000 toward storm relief efforts in North Carolina after tornadoes touched down in 26 counties in the eastern part of the state. According to initial figures from the governor’s office, approximately 6,200 homes were damaged and 440 were completely destroyed.

To meet the needs of members in the wake of such devastation, the state council is compiling a list of Knights throughout North Carolina who require aid and another list of Knights who can provide assistance to their brothers. State Deputy David R. Jones and his fellow state officers are also using the $20,000 donation from the Supreme Council to purchase grocery store gift cards for the families of North Carolina Knights affected by the disaster.

At least 47 people were killed in Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia and Mississippi in similar storms that began April 16 and lasted throughout the following week.

Tragically, some children have been among the reported casualties. In addition to the support it has provided to members, the North Carolina State Council also donated $1,000 to Catholic Charities to help pay for the funeral service of four children, ages 6 months to 9 years old, who were killed in a mobile home park in Raleigh.

Patrick Scalisi is the associate editor of Columbia magazine.