Stories from our Volunteers: Tornado Deployment in Little Rock Arkansas

By Kathy Schuh-Ries, Disaster Volunteer 

Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services, working with Kathy Schuh-Ries in filling out her deployment paperwork.

Travis Waack, Regional Manager, Direct Services, working with Kathy Schuh-Ries in filling out her deployment paperwork.

On May 2nd, I was deployed by the Red Cross to assist as a Mental Health volunteer in Little Rock Arkansas. An F4 tornado had touched down the Sunday before leaving 16 people deceased, with mass destruction to the towns of Mayflower and Velonia.  The tornado was ¾ of a mile wide and left behind slabs with piles of debris where homes and neighborhoods once stood.

After signing in at Red Cross Headquarters in Little Rock and receiving my assignment, I joined other workers in setting up an outreach center in Beryl Baptist Church in Conway Arkansas. I was part of a team of three. Two of my co-workers followed a Red Cross ERV (emergency response vehicle) delivering food to disaster areas and talking to people in the neighborhoods while I met people who walked in at the church. I listened to their account of the events that happened to each one personally. In assessing the needs through these conversations I was able to refer for resources to assist in recovery.

At Beryl Baptist, the Red Cross staffed a shelter that assisted families and individuals during the first week. When the shelter was no longer needed, the church assisted in food distribution. Volunteers from the church assisted in this distribution of canned goods, water and other items that where donated. Clothing was distributed in a church down the road.

Some of the destruction in the Arkansas area, but the American Flag still stands.

Some of the destruction in the Arkansas area, but the American Flag still stands.

I was able to meet individuals and families and refer them for other services at the MARC (Mass Assistance Recovery Center) a place in town where twelve different agencies were equipped to assist people who needed medical services, eye glasses, food, clothing, tree and debris removal etc. The center was located four miles away from the church.

I was touched by the many volunteers who responded to this horrific disaster. While there were too many to remember, I want to note a few. The Southern Baptist, who cooked thousands of meals which then were delivered by the Red Cross throughout the town and on Saturday, the day we arrived, bus loads of volunteers (1,500), came to assist in debris removal and clean up.

To read more about Kathy’s deployment, here is a link to the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter who did a story about her deployment.  

THANK YOU Kathy from your friends at the Red Cross for being there to answer the call!!

Red Cross Helps Arkansas Tornado Survivors with Shelter, Food and Relief Supplies

As severe weather threat continues, people should prepare and use free app alerts 

Tornado damage, Mayflower Arkansas 27April2014. Early reports and images show that Mayflower Arkansas suffered heavy damage.

The American Red Cross is helping people in Arkansas and several other states affected by Sunday’s devastating tornadoes.

More than 200 people spent Sunday night in shelters in Arkansas that were opened or supported by Red Cross workers. The Red Cross is also providing health and mental health services and Red Cross emergency vehicles will be distributing food throughout the affected areas.

“Our thoughts and sympathy are with all those impacted by these horrific tornadoes,” said Richard Reed, senior vice president, Disaster Cycle Services for the Red Cross. “Red Cross disaster teams are helping now and will continue to help for weeks to come.”

RED CROSS SENDS BLOOD The Red Cross provided several units of type O negative blood to two hospitals in Arkansas before the storm and supplied 40 units of plasma this morning to help treat those who were injured. The hospitals say they have a sufficient blood supply to handle the situation at this point. The Red Cross stands ready to assist with any additional blood needs. Anyone interested in donating blood should call 1-800-RED CROSS or your local blood bank to schedule an appointment in the weeks ahead.

The Red Cross also has shelters open in Oklahoma and is responding in northern Louisiana where flooding occurred after yesterday’s storms. Shelter and services also are being provided in North Carolina, which was hit Friday night by tornadoes.

SEVERE WEATHER NOT OVER The chance of severe storms is moving eastward today and could impact people in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Red Cross chapters in those areas are preparing to respond by readying shelters, supplies and volunteers.

support-american-red-cross-in-arkansas-disaster-relief-for-arkansasDOWNLOAD TORNADO APP People should download the Red Cross tornado app onto their mobile devices. They can use the app’s “I’m Safe” button to let loved ones know they are okay and find the location of Red Cross shelters. The app also includes a high-pitched siren and warning alert that signals when a tornado warning has been issued, as well as also an all-clear alert that lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been cancelled. The Red Cross sent out 2.1 million severe weather notifications over the weekend through its tornado app for tornado and thunderstorm watches and warnings.

If someone needs to find a shelter, they can contact their local Red Cross chapter or access the Red Cross shelter map which is updated every 30 minutes with shelter locations by address, city, state and/or zip code.

HOW TO HELP Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting http://www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

Red Cross Volunteer Gets Ready for Her Seventh National Disaster Assignment

(L-R) Jan Traversa and Diane Knutson, at the 2009 Red River Valley Floods in Fargo, ND

The American Red Cross Lakeland Chapter has dispatched disaster volunteer, Diane Knutson, of Sturgeon Bay, to Little Rock, Arkansas to assist with the April tornadoes that devastated so much of the south almost one week ago.

This will be Knutson’s seventh national disaster deployment. She has assisted for Hurricane Wilma, Wildfires in California, Tornadoes in Arkansas and Lakewood, WI, in 2008 helped with the floods in East Central and Southern WI and in 2009 assisted with the Red River Valley Floods.

For this assignment she will be deployed as a supervisor for damage assessment.

Across the Country

Tornadoes, floods and severe weather have uprooted lives across the country. The April 27 storm system tore across the south, causing widespread destruction in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas andVirginia. In Alabama alone, early estimates indicate that 7,000 to 10,000 homes may have been damaged or destroyed. The Red Cross is operating 16 shelters within that state.

Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern visited tornado ravaged Alabama and Mississippi over the weekend and pledged that the Red Cross will do whatever is possible to ease the suffering of those affected.

Red Cross volunteer Corliss Booker, age 16, hands out food to Yayla Sanders, age 11.

Since March 31, more than 3,700 Red Cross workers have assisted with relief and recovery efforts in 16 states. The Red Cross has served more than 513,000 meals and snacks, and opened more than 120 shelters providing more than 8,300 overnight stays.

“This is my first hot meal thanks to the Red Cross, they’ve really been a big help,” said Jason Price, who was  affected by the tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “You all don’t know how much we appreciate a hot meal.”

 The Red Cross will remain in these affected communities, partnering with other agencies and community resources to ensure residents have the help they need to get their lives back on track. The Red Cross will also continue providing health services and emotional support for those who face the daunting task of rebuilding. Since March 31, the Red Cross has provided more than 6,200 health and mental health contacts.

“I give to the American Red Cross every year and it has come full circle,” said Sue Allen as she stood in front of her damaged home inAlabama.

The severe spring weather is not over yet and heavy thunderstorms are expected throughout the MississippiandOhioRiver basins, bringing the potential for flooding to the region.

How to Help: 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, and people 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,DC20013.

About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

Red Cross Responds After Tornadoes, Wildfires Leave Devastation Across The South

Editorial note: Call (202) 303-5551 to speak with an American Red Cross spokesperson on the groundVisit the Red Cross Disaster Online Newsroom for response information, including photos, audio, and press releases.

Residents wait to receive meals from an Emergency Response Vehicle in Raleigh, NC.

 WASHINGTON, April 18, 2011 – The American Red Cross is working around the clock to provide relief to people affected by the deadly tornadoes and scorching wildfires that left a path of destruction in six states across the south over the weekend.

Strong tornadoes ripped homes off their foundations, destroyed businesses and schools, overturned cars and buses, uprooted trees and downed power lines in Oklahoma, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. In North Carolina alone, preliminary disaster assessments show almost 500 homes destroyed and more than 1,000 damaged. Some of the hardest hit areas are still inaccessible, and officials say that many more than 1,000 families will be homeless in the state.

Red Cross workers sheltered more than 500 people over the weekend, served meals throughout the affected neighborhoods, and provided personal hygiene items and supplies to help as the clean-up begins. With government officials reporting more than 40 deaths from the tornadoes, Red Cross disaster mental health workers are available to help people cope with the aftermath. Red Cross chapters throughout the south are deploying trained disaster teams into the area and more than 25 Red Cross emergency response vehicles are in hard-hitNorth Carolina, or on their way to the state.

Red Cross workers make their way through devastated neighborhoods throughout West Texas. Photo Credit: Phil Beckman/American Red Cross

In Texas, wildfires have spread across more than 700,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing people to leave their neighborhoods. Red Cross disaster workers have opened shelters and are feeding those displaced by the fires. As families return to their neighborhoods, Red Cross teams are providing them with food and water. The Red Cross is also assisting those who have lost their homes to the fires, providing them with food, clothing and other necessities.

“Families have lost everything, and we are doing what we can to help them as they figure out what’s next,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “We’ll continue to help them in the weeks ahead as they try to get back on their feet.”

Since the end of March, the Red Cross has offered relief to people affected by 35 disasters in 20 states. The Red Cross is able to respond quickly with the help of corporations who are members of the organization’s Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP). ADGP members pledge donations on an ongoing basis to allow the Red Cross to pre-position supplies and be ready to take immediate action when disasters occur.

ADGP members include 3M, Altria, Aon, Cisco Foundation, ConAgra Foods, Darden Restaurants, Inc., Dr Pepper Snapple Group, FedEx Corporation, GE Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation, John Deere Foundation, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Kraft Foods, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Merck, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide Insurance Foundation,  Northrop Grumman, Ryder Charitable Foundation, Southwest Airlines, State Farm, State Street Foundation, Target,  The TJX Companies, Inc., UnitedHealthcare, UPS and Walmart.

 The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help people affected by disasters like these tornadoes and wildfires. You can help by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Visit http://www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS 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,DC20013.

 About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

Fast Facts: Spring Storms Response

The following information shows our total service delivery across Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma since the beginning of the severe weather events in April:

  • Shelters opened: 63
  • Shelter Overnight Stays: 9,608
  • Clean up kits:  23,715
  • Comfort kits: 12,344
  • Meals served: 189,867
  • Snacks served: 254,754
  • Emergency Response Vehicles on the ground: 113
  • Mental Health Consultations: 10,488
  • Health Services Consultations: 8,351
  • 1-866-GET-INFO calls: 5,253
  • Total Red Cross Workers: 4,674 (4,287 volunteers)

Stats as of May 27, 2010