As many as 15 tornadoes snaked out of the sky on April 3 in the vast Dallas-Fort Worth area. Mansfield, Arlington, Dallas, Lancaster, and Forney were some of the areas that took the biggest hit. Videos of tractor-trailers being tossed 100 feet into the air have gone viral, showing the amazing power of the storm. Neighborhoods, large and small, received millions of dollars in damages to homes and businesses. Many feared a repeat of what happened in Kentucky and Indiana a month earlier. This time it was different, and it is a testimony to good preparation, alert broadcasters, and God’s protective hand that there were no deaths and that the injuries were generally limited.
When disasters like this strike, the public turns first to their local broadcast stations to know what is happening, and to learn how to stay out of harm’s way. For many, that was their local Christian station, and once again the listener was reminded of the great value their station provides.
As the storms bore down on Arlington, where KCBI FM has its studios, the station acting news director Dennis Page continually broke in to regular programs to keep the listeners informed of the impending danger. News reporter Chris Howell was quickly on the scene of the nursing home hit by one of the tornadoes, to give accurate details of the damage and the condition of the elderly residents being evacuated. Reports and updates continued through the day, including listings of shelters and ways to assist disaster teams, such as Samaritan’s Purse and Texas Baptist Men.
By Wednesday morning the KCBI news team was in Lancaster, one of the hardest hit areas where 300 homes were damaged or destroyed. Throughout Wednesday and Thursday after the storms, KCBI provided encouragement and hope, including a Thursday morning special, Weathering the Storm: Safe in His Arms. There were live reports from the hardest-hit areas—Forney, Lancaster, Arlington, and Kennedale—and stories of God’s amazing intervention from those who experienced these horrific storms.
KCBI General Manager Mike Tirone said, “We knew our listening family was hurting. KCBI needed to mobilize resources and ministries to help connect the dots.” And Tirone added, “It was also important for us to pray on air and bring hope and encouragement.”
Later that evening, a TV reporter noted the lack of deaths and low instances of serious injury and said, “And for that, you can give thanks to whoever you want to give thanks to.” Tirone said the reporter clearly missed it. “It was clearly God’s hand that protected North Texas, and I am grateful for a station like KCBI that could shout it from the rooftops.”
As Program Director Sharon Geiger put it, “We believe that one of the many reasons God has placed KCBI in Dallas-Fort Worth is to help mobilize the Body of Christ in the event of an emergency.” Geiger continued, “It was inspiring to hear the stories of love in motion – the Body rallying to meet the needs of the hundreds of people who literally lost everything, and to help listeners find ways to be involved.”
During the day of the storms, Salem Communications station 94.9 KLTY’s on-air personalities Bonnie Curry and Tony Lopez relayed severe weather information to the public in rapid fashion. With the help of the new 94.9 KLTY Storm Tracker Radar, they were able to get real-time warnings from the National Weather Service with street level detail and relay the information quickly. As Program Director Mike Prendergast said, “No doubt, they helped saved lives on that day.”
In the aftermath of the devastation across DFW, the KLTY Family Friendly Morning Show with Frank Reed and Starlene Stringer hosted three live morning show broadcasts in the hardest hit areas. They were in south Arlington on Thursday, April 5th, Lancaster on Friday, April 6th and Forney on Monday, April 9th. The station teamed up with local churches and organizations that could help in the community to collect food, water, diapers, toiletries and other supplies for those affected.
In total, with the help of the 94.9 KLTY listeners, the station staff, Mission Arlington, Cedar Valley Church of Christ, Lancaster Outreach, Community Life Church and the Red Cross, KLTY raised over $6,600 and filled up two and a half trucks full of supplies, all of which went directly back to the victims of the tornadoes. Speaking of the responsiveness of the KLTY listeners, Prendergast says, “You are truly the hands and feet of Jesus!”
The FCC often encourages local stations to be more involved and more responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. For Christian broadcasters, like NRB members KCBI and KLTY, that is a part of their DNA. Their mission and their heart is to serve the Lord and to serve the community where God has placed them. And in this instance, they have done both things with high professionalism and high purpose.
Senior VP for Strategic Partnerships
PHOTOS ABOVE: (1) Tractor trailer being tossed around by Dallas area tornado. (2) Man surveying damage to home from tornado in Forney, TX. Photograph by Paul Phlieger. (3) KLTY Storm Tracker Radar. (4) Supplies received for tornado victims. Photographs courtesy of KLTY.