EXCLUSIVE: Group Dispatches “Disaster Relief” Big Rigs to Aid in Tornado Recovery
Wilkesboro, NC – In the wake of multiple deadly tornados that ravaged middle Tennessee during the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 3, one organization immediately responded by dispatching two big rigs to help those in need.
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee confirmed 25 fatalities as a result of the multiple EF3 tornados across the counties of Putnam, Wilson, Davison and Benton.
Additionally, Governor Lee said there are still people unaccounted for in Putnam County, where 16 of the 25 deaths alone were reported.
He declared a state of emergency.
The tornados, which hit just before 1 a.m., decimated areas in the four counties, including a 10-mile path across downtown Nashville.
Photos of the devastation began surfacing on social media shortly after the tornados hit, showing homes and businesses completely destroyed.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said at one point, over 73,000 homes and businesses were without power.
Samaritan’s Purse, a North Carolina-based Christian non-profit organization led by Reverend Franklin Graham, has a mission to provide “spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”
Graham, the eldest son of the most consequential evangelist of the 20th century, the Reverend Billy Graham, tweeted a video Tuesday afternoon showing a Samaritan’s Purse tractor-trailer on its way to Tennessee.
.@SamaritansPurse U.S. Disaster Relief is on its way to Mt. Juliet and Cookeville, TN, to help homeowners affected by this morning’s deadly tornadoes. Pray as we prepare to respond in these devastated communities. pic.twitter.com/Eo2gV9V7lz
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) March 3, 2020
Kaitlyn Lahm, the assistant director of marketing and media relations for Samaritan’s Purse, shared with Transportation Nation Network (TNN) the semi in Graham’s video is one of two tractor-trailers en route from North Carolina to Mt. Juliet and Cookeville, TN, to begin cleanup efforts in affected communities.
According to Lahm, each tractor-trailer — called “Disaster Relief Units” — is hauling machinery and equipment such as chainsaws, generators, heavy duty tarps, shovels, rakes, ladders, and other supplies to aid in disaster relief efforts.
“When [Samaritan’s Purse] responds in the United States, we respond to help families in the physical sense,” Lahm told TNN.
In total, Samaritan’s Purse has eight Disaster Relief Units strategically located around the country in order to provide quick and efficient response to disasters, no matter where they happen in the U.S.
“These tractor-trailers are fully stocked with tools and relief supplies, allowing Samaritan’s Purse to be on the road within hours of a natural disaster,” said Allen Moore, who works as a truck driver and mechanic for Samaritan’s Purse.
The two units dispatched to Tennessee — 2017 and 2020 Kenworth T680s — are based in North Carolina.
Lahm said “about half” of the team who works on and drives the disaster relief big rigs previously drove commercial trucks for a living.
They now work full time for the non-profit.
The tractors are hauling NASCAR-style trailers, which have been customized specifically for Samaritan’s Purse with the front of the trailer serving as an office space and command center.
Continue to pray for those in TN who have lost so much to these storms—especially the families who lost loved ones. pic.twitter.com/QsCs2cCEQe
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) March 5, 2020
Nationally, Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Units have recently aided in the historic flooding in Umatilla County, OR, and near Jackson, MS; tornado relief in Spartanburg, SC; and of course Hurricanes Dorian (2019), Florence (2018), Michael (2018) and Harvey (2017).
Internationally, Samaritan’s Purse provides “food, water, shelter, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ.”
Samaritan’s Purse began in February 1970 and recently celebrated 50 years of service.
For more information on Samaritan’s Purse, visit them online at SamaritansPurse.org.
Photos courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse/WKRN