Hurricane Irene slammed into the United States one month ago, leaving devastation in its wake. The storm was followed just days later by Tropical Storm Lee which caused historic flooding in the northeast. The American Red Cross sprang into action, offering dry refuge, warm meals and emotional comfort to the thousands of people in the south and northeast displaced by these storms.
Relief operations continue today as people work to recover from the destruction left behind by Irene and Lee. More than 180 people are still unable to return to their homes and continue to turn to the Red Cross for shelter. Thousands of people are cleaning up their mud-filled homes and are grateful for the meals and drinks the Red Cross continues to provide, as well as the cleaning supplies being distributed.
Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast in late August, affecting the lives of millions of people from North Carolina to Maine. The Red Cross responded with the full force of its Disaster Services, opening hundreds of shelters in which thousands of people sought refuge from the storm. Every Red Cross emergency recovery vehicle east of the Rocky Mountains was deployed to distribute meals and cleaning supplies in the affected communities. The storm destroyed homes and businesses, flooded neighborhoods, and left communities in darkness up and down the eastern seaboard.
As people continued to recover from Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee came ashore in early September and hovered over the Northeast, dropping more than a foot of rain in some areas. The storm forced the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes as flood waters inundated entire towns. Again, the Red Cross responded, opening shelters, distributing meals and offering a shoulder to lean on as thousands of people’s lives were disrupted.Red Cross volunteers Thomas Breister (left) and Sara Lanier (right) visit with Kimberlee Fletcher and her daughter, Jennifer, who have been staying in a Red Cross shelter in Tunkhannock, Pa. after flooding destroyed their home. The flood waters rose so rapidly, the Fletcher family was able to save only a computer and a few of their children’s toys. “I wouldn’t know what to do without the Red Cross shelter,” Kimberlee said. Daughter Jennifer had just returned from a pool party held by children in the neighborhood around the shelter.
More than 8,500 Red Cross disaster workers have come from all over the country to help those in the path of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The Red Cross opened more than 580 shelters in response to these two destructive storms, providing 68,517 overnight stays. In conjunction with community partners, the Red Cross has distributed more than 2.5 million meals and snacks, handed out almost 600,000 comfort and clean-up items, provided 23,348 health consultations and 18,428 mental health services.
Experts predicted the 2011 hurricane season would be very active, and the Red Cross prepared for months to meet the challenges the storms might present. Red Cross Disaster Services can utilize the services of more than 60,000 trained disaster volunteers. There are 56,000 shelter locations pre-identified which can be opened when needed. The Red Cross has the capacity to serve a million meals a day if necessary.
This Red Cross response to Irene and Lee will cost millions of dollars. If you would like to help, you can call 1-800-REDCROSS, visit www.redcross.org, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.