Across the South, residents are dealing with a trail of disasters that have left thousands of homes destroyed, and have wreaked havoc in communities large and small.
As people along the Mississippi River continue to watch the rising waters, towns hit by April’s deadly tornadoes are still picking up the pieces. Currently, more than 2,000 Red Cross workers are on the ground in the South to help communities hit by these disasters.
The tornado and flood responses are just the latest in what has been a string of relief operations across the country this spring. Since March 31, the Red Cross has launched relief operations in more than 20 states responding to wildfires, floods and tornadoes—all the way from North Dakota to the East Coast and throughout the South.
In addition to deploying more than 8,000 workers since late March—most of them volunteers—the Red Cross has also trained 6,226 people to help in the relief operations. These newly trained workers now have the skills to help the tornado and flood survivors, and will also be prepared to help during the upcoming hurricane season.
Since the end of March, the Red Cross has:
- Served more than 1.7 million meals and snacks with the help of community partners.
- Opened more than 200 shelters and provided more than 17,000 overnight stays.
- Handed out more than 1 million relief items like hygiene kits, mops, brooms, tarps, shovels, work gloves and coolers.
- Provided more than 39,000 health and mental health consultations.
- Deployed more than 700 emergency response and other disaster vehicles to areas affected by floods, wildfires, and tornadoes.
Although the Mississippi River has stolen the limelight in recent days, thousands of people are still dealing with the aftermath of April’s tornadoes. The Red Cross continues to operate shelters and travel through these devastated communities to distribute cleanup items, make sure people have food to eat and help people cope with the disaster.
In Harvest, Ala., 150 miles from the destruction in Tuscaloosa, scenes of devastation abound. Piles of debris, trees and destroyed homes litter the streets. In the middle of this, you’ll find a Red Cross emergency aid station, where members of the Harvest Seventh Day Adventist Church work with Red Cross volunteers to provide relief and hope. There is a constant flurry of activity from local volunteers, who sort food, distribute rakes and shovels for cleanup, and unload snacks and comfort kits from a Red Cross emergency response vehicle.
In Hackleburg, Ala., Tony Hardin, an employee working 14-hour days to reconnect gas lines, stopped recently at one of the Red Cross emergency response vehicles in town and was happy to find a hot meal. “The Red Cross and everybody have been great,” he said. “Thank God for them.”
And in Horse Creek, Tenn., Red Cross volunteer Kit Galton stopped by Walter Gunton’s home to make sure he was doing OK. Galton is trained in disaster mental health, and is one of many volunteers visiting members of the community to make sure they’re coping well with the disaster.
“I’ve come across a number of people who feel better because we’ve been here to help focus on the positive—they’ve survived,” Galton said. “The other thing that helps is the way the community has banded together to support each other.”
“I didn’t know our community could pull together like this,” Gunton told Galton while he worked to remove rubble from the foundation of his home. “I’m glad I was wrong.”
The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $31 million responding to the wildfires, tornadoes and floods that have occurred earlier this spring, and has received $27.6 million in pledges and contributions for those operations.
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.