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Historic Tornado Leaves Joplin Reeling


As Joplin, Mo., residents begin to pick up the pieces after Sunday’s devastating tornado, the American Red Cross is providing shelter and supplies for those in need.

Hundreds of supplies that will be useful for recovery efforts are arriving in Joplin today, including tarps, gloves, rakes and dust masks. In addition, more than 300 comfort kits—which contain daily essentials such as shampoo and toothpaste—have also been sent.

Red Cross emergency response vehicles are already in Joplin, having brought shelter supplies in on Sunday night. More than 100 people have stayed at the Red Cross shelter located at Missouri State Southern College since the tornado hit. Having a safe, warm place to stay is particularly important now given yesterday’s wet weather and the continuing threat of severe storms.

As residents return to their homes to see what they can recover, and first responders continue to search for the missing, Red Cross vehicles will be circulating through neighborhoods to provide water, snacks and much needed emotional support. Another six response vehicles from out of state will be arriving in Joplin this week.

The scale of destruction in Joplin is a shock to residents and responders alike. Michael Spencer, a Red Cross worker experienced in disaster response, told NPR on Monday, "I've been to about 75 disasters, and I've never seen anything quite like this before," he said. "You don't typically see metal structures and metal frames torn apart, and that's what you see here."

Spencer also spoke to MSNBC yesterday about the recovery process. “This is going to take everyone pulling together to really help this community,” he said. “It’s not going to be days or weeks—it’s going to be months that this community’s going to need the assistance of the Red Cross and all our partners like FEMA ... We’re going to be helping people together for however long it takes.”

The Red Cross, working in partnership with AmeriCorps and the Southern Baptist Convention, is setting up a reception area to coordinate the influx of volunteers into the city.

One Red Cross volunteer continues to help those around her even as she deals with the loss of her own home. Marie Colby, a Joplin resident, was driving on the highway when the tornado hit. After helping a driver whose tractor trailer was overturned, she immediately went to help set up the Red Cross shelter.

Colby spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday about why she continues to volunteer even though her own home is now destroyed.

“It gives me a way to help the community, help everybody around me, help the people I care about; and I know that everything that I am doing to help people, I’m going to get the exact same aid—the same help, the compassion—back from them,” she said.

How You Can Help

The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $41 million responding to the disasters that have affected the country since March 31, and to date, about $33.6 million has been raised in donations for these responses.

Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; you can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.