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Hurricane Irma – One Volunteer’s Perspective

by Carmela Burke, special to

“Kind words or a shoulder to cry on may be what they need to begin their recovery.” - A Chat with Adrian Grieve

He grew up in Lockerbie, site of the Pan Am 103 aviation disaster in 1988.

For longtime Pennsylvania resident Adrian Grieve, the disaster hit close to home. A native of Scotland, Grieve was not able to contact friends and family for over three days following the disaster. As a result, he got involved as a Disaster Action Team member with his local Red Cross, the Berks County Chapter and has remained part of Red Cross disaster services ever since then, with a specific interest in responding to transportation incidents.

These days, Grieve works as Executive Director of the Tri-County Chapter in Reading, PA. But when Hurricane Irma started to buzz through the warm waters of the Caribbean, Grieve was a member of one of the disaster response management teams (DRMT) dispatched to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. His base would be disaster response headquarters in Columbia South Carolina until Irma would dissipate into a tropical depression.

Members of the DRMT are there to support the districts that are set up as part of the response. Having been in South Carolina last year for the Hurricane Matthew response, Grieve already knew many of the workforce and partners in the area. "Although I wish it was for a different reason, it is great to be back to work with such an amazing team,” according to Grieve. “Everyone is so friendly and generous with their time that it has made the response to Hurricane Irma go very smoothly."

On September 8, Irma, a category 4 storm was on track on its move west. While South Carolina was within its cone, there was uncertainty on the final track. The State Emergency Operations Center was activated and emergency managers, including the Red Cross, monitored the storm’s path. On September 9, South Carolina was no longer in the cone of the storm but the area would still be hit by winds, 6-10 inches of rain, isolated tornadoes and storm surge.

On September 11, Irma impacted South Carolina as a tropical storm bringing strong winds and heavy rain to nearly the entire state. Roughly 200,000 homes lost power and flooding occurred on the coast, especially in Charleston and surrounding areas. Severe weather conditions continued through the early morning of September 12. As many as 26 shelters were opened offering a safe place to stay for evacuees from in-state and out-of-state.

When the clouds cleared and Irma left the area, American Red Cross workers began distributing emergency supplies to residents who wanted to use them to clean up their homes and surroundings.

“For many people who were affected by Hurricane Irma, it is going to be a long recovery,” said Grieve. In his wise words, he added: “Look out for each other and be kind to those you come across. They may have suffered tremendous loss and your smile, kind words or shoulder to cry on may be exactly what they need to begin their recovery.”

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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