The farm of Jim and Miriam Baier in Logan County outside of Huntsville suffered significant damage. Photo by Joel Penhorwood.

The beauty in the response

By Matt Reese

As long as this old world continues to spin, terrible disasters will happen. Each one of the disasters we have seen unfold in recent weeks has been devastating in its own way, but amid the loss are the uniquely inspiring efforts of the people who step in and help. The glory, the beauty and the kindness of the situations are demonstrated in the hearts, hands and generosity of those who respond. 

Severe weather moved through central Ohio early in the morning of Feb. 28, 2024, causing significant damage in several parts of rural Ohio and the Columbus area. With wind speeds up to 135 miles per hour, the National Weather Service reported several tornadoes touching down, including two EF2 tornadoes and damaging straight line winds. Some of the worst damage was in Clark and Madison, Franklin, and Licking counties. In Clark and Madison counties, homes and barns were severely damaged on the tornado’s path over 19 miles. Communities have been at work since addressing the damage and cleaning up debris before spring planting begins

“It has been amazing to see the outpouring of help of their farm neighbors and their rural friends in helping,” said Melissa Tuttle, Clark County Farm bureau president. “It’s overwhelming to see the support and the people that were on the scene from EMS workers helping all the way to just everyday folks trying to help clean the fields and help people rebuild and collect their personal items. People were doing loads of laundry to helping others get food or housing items for the interim. It’s amazing to see how nice people are to one another in this world where everybody always looks out for themselves. It just shows how much the agricultural community and rural community really do care about one another.” 

This was followed by another round of tornados on March 14, including a devastating EF3 tornado with wind speeds up to 165 miles per hour in Auglaize and Logan counties around Indian Lake resulting in multiple fatalities, injuries and extensive damage, according to the National Weather Service. Tornados also touched down in Crawford, Hancock, Mercer, Union, and Delaware counties. As with the earlier tornados, Ohioans responded to help. Within hours the community had rallied around Indian Lake and within days a tremendous outpouring of donations had flooded in (uwlogan.org/indian-lake-tornado-community-response).

This type of response is not new, or unique. When disaster hits, people — including many area farmers — respond. On my recent trip to Houston for Commodity Classic, I found myself seated at a table next to a farm radio broadcaster from Texas. In discussions about agriculture in our home states, the conversation quickly turned to the devastating wildfires in the Texas Panhandle. A path of complete destruction of the Smokehouse Creek Fire started near the small town of Stinnett on Feb. 26. By early March, the massive fire had incinerated more than a million acres and grown into the largest wildfire in Texas history, crossing the state line into Oklahoma. 

There are many similarities between the Smokehouse Creek Fire and the terrible fires that swept through Clark County on the nearby southern border of Kansas where I got to see first-hand the terrible damage back in 2017. At the time, I got to interview Dr. John Kellenberger, D.V.M. with the Ashland Veterinary Center, Inc. in Kansas, who saw terrible loss of livestock on many area ranches, including his own. He told me this.

“The first night I laid down to go to sleep after the fire I remember thinking, ‘How is God going to be glorified in this?’ It has been so easy to see that,” Kellenberger said. “It has been a blessing just to see how other agricultural people reach out to one another when there is a problem and how our local community has really stepped up…To see the relationships not only locally but between people from away from here that have been built, that is where the glory of it has been.”

The farm of Jim and Miriam Baier in Logan County outside of Huntsville suffered significant damage on March 14. Photo by Joel Penhorwood.

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One comment

  1. Wonderful article. Heartfelt and encouraging in the midst of loss and destruction. God is faithful and He uses His people to respond.
    Great job Matt!

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