As the swollen Mississippi River continues to rise in the South, more and more people are seeing their towns and homes overtaken by the water.
In Vicksburg, Miss., Joann Parks does her best to collect her belongings from the last 45 years. Parks is evacuating her home, so she collects what she can on a family member's pickup truck. She cannot take everything, and has to carefully decide what she is able to salvage.
"I never thought I would have to move. If I did, I never would have imagined it would be like this," Parks said. "It's scary, knowing that the waters are approaching so fast and so close. You never think you’re going to experience something like this in real life."
Parks’ side of the street had never been declared a flood zone, so she does not have flood insurance. She spent the previous day, her 61st birthday, hurriedly gathering belongings. "It's devastating. I never thought I would experience something like this. It just hurts so bad."
The American Red Cross has reached out to Parks and many other residents with information on evacuation and sheltering.
"People have turned out to assist us, like the Red Cross, and it has just been amazing. It makes me have faith that through all of this, something good will come of it," Parks said.
Janice Sawyer, site director for the Capitol River (Miss.) Chapter of the Red Cross, was there not only to give Parks the information she needed, but some moral support as well. After giving Parks a hug, Sawyer said, "It's heartbreaking to watch our neighbors, our friends, lose their homes. I see the pain and hurt in their eyes."
Sawyer has witnessed the flooding along U.S. Route 61—the highway that runs along the Mississippi—and describes the current situation as "catastrophic."
Sawyer is herself a resident of Vicksburg. She says, "This community has been good to me for 29 years. Now with the Red Cross, I have the opportunity to give back. The American Red Cross is here, and we will stand beside our community as long as it takes to recover."
You can read more about how the Red Cross is responding to this spring’s severe weather on redcross.org.
How You Can Help The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $31 million responding to the disasters that have occurred over the past several weeks, all while initiating another large-scale relief operation to help people along the Mississippi River, which will add even more to this amount. The Red Cross has received $17.7 million in pledges and contributions for disaster relief since March 31 to support the current response in 18 states in the South, Midwest, and other parts of the U.S.
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 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.