SBTC DR volunteers serve in wake of deadly East Texas tornadoes

CANTON—Even before the last of six tornadoes hit Van Zandt and surrounding counties east of Dallas on the afternoon of Monday, May 1, SBTC disaster relief teams assembled in Canton under the supervision of white hat, or incident commander, Daniel White. 

Crossroads Church of Canton is hosting SBTC volunteers, providing accommodations, meals, and a highly visible place to park the DR command center, communications trailer, laundry and shower unit, and other equipment.

The National Weather Service confirmed four tornadoes—two EF-0s, with winds from 65 to 85 mph, and two EF-3s, with winds from 136 to 165 mph—cut a deadly swath through parts of Van Zandt, Henderson and Rains counties on Saturday, April 29. The following Monday, an EF-0 tornado struck near Cumby, Texas, and an EF-2 again hit portions of Van Zandt county. Four people were killed and dozens injured during the storms.

One area man stopped off Tuesday with a donation of nearly $200 for victims, which White delivered to Crossroads pastor Mark Robinson to dispense to those in need.

“The man said, ‘We took this up in our community. Use it where it is needed,’” said SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice, adding that they’re grateful even for “a widow’s mite kind of gift.”

Stice confirmed 36 SBTC volunteers were on site in Canton by Tuesday. A 10-member chainsaw, rigging and tarping team from the Harmony Pittsburg Association led by Paul Easter started work on jobs Monday. Monte Furrh’s five-man team from Bonham arrived Tuesday and began tarping houses. Other volunteers in communications, assessment, chaplaincy, shower and laundry and administration assembled as well.

“This is one of the quickest responses to a disaster we have ever seen,” White told the room full of yellow-shirted volunteers gathered after Tuesday’s dinner at Crossroads. “So much came together so fast.”

Encouraging the volunteers, White added, “It’s not about how many trees we cut but about people, telling them about the love of Jesus Christ.”

White and Stice confirmed that work orders, which numbered 25 by Tuesday evening, are expected to increase over the weekend, and the deployment is likely to be both lengthy and widespread.

Alluding to the latest estimates from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office that 5,000 homes and structures were affected by the tornadoes, Stice said he believed many of these addresses would be throughout Van Zandt and neighboring counties. “We are going to have to go out in the rural areas and find the work,” Stice explained.

“This situation in the first week of a disaster is very fluid,” White noted. “Many homeowners will have gone to stay with friends and relatives; they have jobs. Typically, we would expect the numbers to jump over the weekend as people return from jobs to their homes.”

Teams are expected to rotate in and out over the weekend and next week, White said, noting that Mike Jansen will assume white hat duties over the weekend.

For more information on how to give or volunteer, visit

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