Recovery efforts begin in Ohatchee following deadly tornado

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 8:22 PM CDT
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OHATCHEE, Ala. (WBRC) - This Palm Sunday will be very different for one Ohatchee pastor and his parishioners. Their church was destroyed by Thursday’s tornado.

The Ragan Chapel United Methodist Church of Ohatchee building is gone after being here for about 150 years.

Pastor Danny Poss said one man who lived in a house behind the church took refuge in the church and survived. It’s a small church - only about 25 members. COVID took a toll on their members attending this year, but many returned.

Next door was a cemetery where many tombstones were blown down by the storm. It is an old church and they could not fund with insurance because it was so old and it would cost a lot. There is hope for the future. Two paintings survived: one is The Lord’s Supper and was still on one remaining wall and it will be behind the pulpit once they rebuild. The other is a picture of Jesus.

Pastor Poss said there are plans for a Palm Sunday service with a message on Sunday.

“Just how things happen and how we live in an imperfect world and how things like this happen and we can’t hold God responsible, but we can only pray for his strength and guidance,” Poss said.

Poss admitted his Palm Sunday sermon has changed after the tornado. His message to the parishioners: they will rebuild. They will be seeking donations, hoping for the United Methodist Disaster Relief Fund to help out and others.

People are reaching out to do what they can to help tornado victims across Alabama. In Ohatchee, a donation center opened Friday to provide some much needed supplies to those who lost everything.

A lot of people are just trying to figure out what to do next as some homes were badly or totally destroyed. So any supplies are welcomed.

One family joined in with prayer with volunteers as they visited the donation center at the Senior Center off of Highway 77. The center is taking in all sorts of donations. Tarps to cover leaking roofs, water, cleaning supplies and snacks. Clothes are not being taken at this time.

Christy Smith lives in Alexandria. She came running after hearing her aunt was trapped in her Ohatchee home. She made her way through debris to get her out. The aunt had a suspected heart attack and is hospitalized. The remaining family is living out of a motel. Any help was welcomed.

“Humongous. Humongous. People are walking around like they are zombies. You lost everything. You don’t know how to start. How to recover,” Smith said.

A volunteer at the center said so far, some have come in seeking help, but she expects that will increase.

“They need time to process. They are trying to get a look at their homes. They are trying to process just what has happened. We are here to love on them, provide for them and to guide for them,” Diane Smith said.

Smith, a missionary, said they will be there as long as they are needed.

Another donation center is open at the Agricultural Center in Ohatchee.

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