The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has deployed three groups of crisis-trained chaplains to Tennessee after deadly tornadoes ripped through Nashville and surrounding areas the night of March 3, killing at least 25 people.
“We are deeply saddened, particularly about the extensive loss of life throughout the state of Tennessee,” said Josh Holland, assistant RRT director. “We have crisis-trained chaplains [there] to provide and offer God’s comfort and hope through Jesus Christ to those who are grieving.”
This was the second-deadliest tornado event in Tennessee history, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. The deadliest was on March 22, 1952, when twisters killed 38 people.
The Storm Prediction Center issued a tornado watch for Nashville at 11:20 p.m.—after most people had probably gone to bed, and too late to be included on most evening weathercasts. The EF-3 tornado, with winds reaching 165 mph, touched down on the west side of the city at 12:38 a.m.
Another tornado plowed through Mount Juliet, 17 miles east of Nashville, at 12:54 a.m. And about an hour later, a third tornado bulldozed through Cookeville, 80 miles east of the state capital.
“I’ll be honest with you, we were under a slight risk for severe storms, obviously severe weather wasn’t out of the question, but we did not anticipate a tornado of this magnitude in the middle of the night,” said Mark Rose, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Nashville.
RRT chaplains are ministering to each of these communities, providing comfort and praying with survivors and first responders alongside Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers.
The morning after the storms ravaged the state, Franklin Graham posted to social media: “I pray there will be a quick recovery and that God will wrap His arms around those who have lost loved ones and are hurting.” He also encouraged Christians to pray for all those affected by the storms.
The damage is extensive. The cost of repairing the John C. Tune Airport alone is estimated at more then $90 million—not including aircraft. But Nashville-area residents have banded together and vowed to rebuild.
“There has been a devastating level of loss,” Mount Zion Church Bishop Joseph Walker said at a Nashville prayer service, “but we’ve also seen the incredible spirit of Nashville, the resilience, the volunteers. People are doing great things.”