After providing flood relief in Colorado, nearly all of the 21 American Red Cross volunteers who deployed from Iowa are safely home, officials said. Some turned around to help Siouxland residents following Friday's tornadoes.
Disaster workers from across Iowa, including five from Siouxland who have returned, began leaving for Colorado on Sept. 16 and have been trickling back to their home state since late last week.
Maurice Evans, 72, of Sioux City, returned Friday after doing casework in the area surrounding Denver. A former locomotive engineer, Evans has been volunteering with Red Cross since he retired in 2007.
Since then, he said, natural disasters have become just that for him – natural. Most recently, Evans assisted with tornado relief in Iowa, just hours after he had returned from Colorado.
“I’ve been to Ike and Sandy,” he said, listing hurricanes. “I’ve been to tornadoes and floods in Fargo (N.D.) and in Sioux City. I’ve been to ice storms in northwest Arkansas.”
In Colorado, Evans said, he spent most of his time doing casework, which involved contacting several of the 20 shelters set up across the state, finding out what their needs were and directing flood victims to resources for food, clothing and shelter.
“The biggest problem was infrastructure,” Evans said. “A lot of homes were being cleaned up when the water came in, but a lot of the water has receded. It’s mostly cleanup.”
Another Red Cross volunteer based out of Denver, Deb Olson, 53, of Le Mars, Iowa, was helping document the scope of the flooding damage during her first few days there. She also rode in one of Iowa’s five Red Cross emergency response vehicles, handing out supplies ranging from rakes and shovels to water, food and bug spray.
“It’s fun to be able to be out there,” she said. “Fun probably isn’t the right word. It’s rewarding to be able to help people. We’re just handing stuff out for free, and they’re so happy to get it.”
With the flooding having destroyed entire homes in some places, Olson said, it was especially sad to find out so many people without flood insurance had been affected.
“Any appliances or anything you have downstairs are toast,” Olson said. “Oftentimes (the water) made it up to the top floor. It ruins everything. It all has to be thrown out. You can’t save anything.”
The flooding affected 20 counties, caused $475 million in road and bridge damage, took eight lives and had left one missing, according to the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.
After dedicating two weeks to the recovery effort, Olson and Evans lamented there was still much to be done, but they were able to say they felt their efforts had been well-received.
“They were so happy when we walked in,” Evans said about the victims once they realized the Red Cross had arrived. “They were extremely happy because they knew they would be getting some help.”