Arkansas parish prepares to receive people left homeless by storms

A man tosses aside bricks while searching in the rubble of a destroyed house April 28 after a tornado hit the town of Vilonia, Ark., the previous day. A series of tornadoes ripped through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 100. (CNS/ Reuters)

A man tosses aside bricks while searching in the rubble of a destroyed house April 28 after a tornado hit the town of Vilonia, Ark., the previous day. A series of tornadoes ripped through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 100. (CNS/ Reuters)

The Arkansas Catholic reports that St. Joseph Parish in Conway, Ark., this afternoon was preparing to receive victims from Sunday evening’s tornadoes that claimed at least 18 lives and left hundreds homeless across the central part of the state.

As a Red Cross shelter, the parish can accommodate about 200 people. If and when people start arriving, it will be the first time the parish has hosted people displaced by severe weather.

“We’re learning as we go along,” Matt Mallett, parish business manager, told the diocesan newspaper.

The Red Cross staff will be on hand to help victims, but parishioners and parish organizations are prepared to help in any way they can, Mallett said.

Severe storms in central Arkansas also injured at least 100 people. In Vilonia, about 14 miles east of Conway, more than 60 homes were destroyed, authorities reported.

The town of Mayflower, about 11 miles south of Conway also sustained severe damage.

Weather observers said the same massive storm affected both communities. Vehicles on I-40 north of Little Rock were tossed around like toys by the swirling winds, but no deaths were reported as the funnel cloud passed.

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities of the Little Rock Diocese was supporting St. Joseph as a relief site with financial assistance and other services as needed.

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