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Vice President Biden, Red Cross President Visit PA Flood Zone

Vice President Joe Biden visited flood-ravaged Pennsylvania today, accompanied by American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern and Charley Shimanski, head of Disaster Services for the Red Cross.

The recent flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee left some Pennsylvania communities under more than 10 feet of water, forcing thousands of people in the Keystone State to leave their homes. Many have now been able to return to their neighborhoods to begin cleaning up the mud and debris. Others have not been so lucky, their homes damaged beyond repair.

During a morning press conference in Duryea, Pa., the vice president acknowledged the Red Cross and all they’re doing to help flood victims in the state. “The Red Cross is not stepping away—they stepped in," Biden said.

Biden and Red Cross President McGovern walked through the town to meet and talk with residents affected by the floods. "People need to tell their story,” McGovern said. “It’s cathartic, and Red Cross workers are really good listeners."

McGovern also commented on the resiliency of the community, saying, "It's unbelievable what's happened here, but it is a beautiful thing to see neighbors helping neighbors."

To date, the Red Cross has provided more than 6,200 overnight stays in 66 shelters in Pennsylvania alone. Since the onset of the flooding, nearly 1,200 Red Cross workers have been helping those affected, handing out more than 23,000 comfort items such as toothbrushes and shampoo, as well as cleanup items, including mops, brooms, tarps, work gloves and garbage bags. The Red Cross has also shipped more than 57,000 items such as hygiene kits, shovels, rakes, gloves, buckets, ice chests and coolers into Pennsylvania.

Through a community partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Red Cross has already distributed more than 103,000 meals and snacks in the Commonwealth. The Red Cross has sent in 76 emergency vehicles to distribute food and cleanup supplies and more are on the way. Two Southern Baptist mobile kitchens are in the state with a capacity of preparing 20,000 meals a day, and feeding routes have been set up throughout the affected communities.

Partner organizations have been supporting the massive Red Cross relief effort in the state. County mental health agencies throughout Pennsylvania have volunteers assisting at Red Cross emergency aid stations. The American Humane Association has set up shelters for animals so people forced to leave their homes have somewhere to take their family pets. Mennonite Disaster Services is helping people clean out their homes. The Teamsters union has helped with transporting supplies. And countless local businesses and organizations are also lending a hand.

The Red Cross reminds people that as they return home they should look for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, cracks in the home’s foundation or other damage before entering the house. More information on how to stay safe after a flood is available on the Red Cross website.

The flooding response is expected to last for weeks as people who have lost their homes figure out their next step, and those able to return home deal with the massive cleanup. As relief operations continue in Pennsylvania, the Red Cross is also assisting those affected by flooding from the same storm in New Jersey, New York and Virginia, as well as those in Texas living in areas impacted by devastating wildfires.

Because of Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and wildfires in Texas, more than 8,000 Red Cross workers have served more than 2.2 million meals and snacks, distributed more than 348,000 relief items and provided more than 38,000 health and mental health services over the last three weeks.

The Red Cross response to these multiple disasters will cost millions—and the costs are rising each day. If you would like to help, visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or 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.