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Red Cross Rushes to Help the Devastated South

As the scope of the tornado damage becomes clearer each day, the American Red Cross remains hard at work to help the thousands of people affected by this disaster.

Preliminary estimates indicate that last week’s storms destroyed or damaged more than 13,000 homes across six states; more than 10,000 in Alabama alone. According to NOAA, April 27, 2011, now holds the record for being the deadliest single day for tornadoes since 1925.

On Monday night, more than 1,200 people spent the night in Red Cross shelters. The Red Cross currently has 153 emergency response vehicles traveling through seven states to provide residents hot meals. Sixty-two of these are in Alabama, and more than a dozen additional vehicles are headed to the state. Since March 31, more than 3,700 Red Cross workers from all 50 U.S. states have assisted with recovery efforts in 16 affected states.

The Red Cross is working closely with its partners, including the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Convention, to set up kitchens where meals are prepared before being distributed to affected neighborhoods. Five kitchens are currently serving meals in Alabama.

In addition to providing a comforting meal, Red Cross response vehicles are also distributing thousands of relief supplies to affected neighborhoods, such as blankets, toiletries, gloves, rakes, tarps, coolers and shovels.

With such widespread devastation, having emotional support is vital, so Red Cross nurses and mental health workers have traveled across the country to help people cope with this tragedy.

Muriel Minkler of the Oregon Trail Chapter of the Red Cross traveled to the Belk Activity Center shelter in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to work in the First Aid Clinic there. She and other nurses not only check on people’s physical health, but are also there to listen to their stories and even share a laugh, as she did with James Herrington.

Herrington was visiting Tuscaloosa from Mississippi when he saw the tornado coming down the road at him. He quickly jumped into a ditch and watched as the tornado took his truck into the air, never to be seen again. Although the tornado only passed over him for a few seconds, he said he heard the noise in his ears for six hours.

So far, Red Cross health workers have provided more than 6,200 health and mental health consultations. The Red Cross has also set up emergency aid stations in majorly damaged areas, and health services workers are also assisting people who have lost medications or items like eyeglasses.

How You Can Help The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help people affected by disasters like wildfires, floods and tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, 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 or call 1-800-RED-CROSS, and people 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.