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Returning Home, But Finding Devastation


Days after Hurricane Irene swept the East Coast, millions of people are facing power outages, floods and damaged or destroyed homes.

Since Friday, the American Red Cross has provided more than 52,000 overnight shelter stays to those impacted by Irene. More than 2,700 people were still in Red Cross shelters on Monday night, while others have returned home only to find their houses damaged or destroyed.

The Red Cross has 260 mobile feeding vehicles—more than two-thirds its entire fleet—now assigned to states hit by the storm. The Red Cross has also worked with long-time partners such as the Southern Baptist Convention to set up and operate ten kitchens, which are capable of producing a total of about 140,000 hot meals every day.

Many of these meals will be loaded onto Red Cross vehicles and distributed in neighborhoods where people are now returning home—in some cases, to homes with no power. The Red Cross has also arranged to procure approximately 1.3 million catered meals through various vendors in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.

Thousands of supplies have also been shipped by the Red Cross to affected states to help residents as they begin to clean up their homes. These items include tarps, rakes, shovels, trash bags and buckets.

In Columbia, N.C., Allen Melton came back to his house on Monday to find the unthinkable.

“We left out of here before the storm,” Melton said, walking past his pickup truck, the high-water mark nearly three feet above the ground still visible on the black paint. They didn’t expect to return to a house full of water. “The water poured out when I opened the door,” he said. Inside, the sofa had floated to the middle of the living room; in the first-floor bedroom, sodden clothes littered the floor. Melton braved the wind and rain that continued Saturday evening to save his dog, whose head was just above water in the backyard, and to rescue his wife’s pride and joy, the potted plants that passersby stopped to admire in her front yard. By Monday, two days after the storm passed, the floor boards were beginning to buckle and the house was beginning to smell of mold. Although Melton knows the house is a total loss, he is mindful of the sorrows of his neighbors and others in this hard-hit region of eastern North Carolina south of Albemarle Sound. “Thanks for all you’re doing for the people around here,” he tells an American Red Cross disaster team. “There are so many people who have lost everything.”

The Red Cross information sheet, Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood, can help keep you safe after the storm. A mobile-friendly version is also available on www.redcross.org/mobile.

How You Can Help – Financial and Blood Donations

In addition to inflicting billions of dollars in damage along the East Coast, Hurricane Irene has also affected the blood supply. Since the storm hit, 72 blood drives have been cancelled, leading to a shortfall of 2,444 units of blood. These numbers are expected to rise, given the storm damage and power outages in many areas. The Red Cross is urging immediate blood and platelet donations in areas unaffected by this storm and asks that people in affected areas consider donating blood once it’s safe to do so. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-800-RED CROSS or go to www.redcrossblood.org.

Those who want to help can also 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.

Safety after the storm The Red Cross information sheet, Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood, can help keep you safe after the storm. A mobile-friendly version is also available on www.redcross.org/mobile.