Red Cross Eastern NC Tornado Response Update

More than two weeks after tornadoes struck eastern NC, damaging and destroying, hundreds of homes in Beaufort, Chowan, Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, the American Red Cross continues to help residents recover.

A Red Cross volunteer offers comfort and support to a Beaufort County resident whose home was damaged by the tornadoes.

A Red Cross volunteer offers comfort and support to a Beaufort County resident
whose home was damaged by the tornadoes.

Volunteers met with and reached out personally to dozens of families to discuss disaster recovery planning and provide individualized support.

In response to the tornadoes, the Eastern NC Region of the American Red Cross has:

  • Served 4,929 meals and snacks.
  • Opened 99 cases providing individualized support to 258 residents including direct financial assistance.
  • Mobilized 161 disaster workers from across the region.
  • Distributed 2,384 supplies including blankets, comfort kits with hygiene items, clean up kits and items including gloves, hand sanitizer, storage containers, sunscreen, bug spray, heavy duty trash bags, tarps, rope, duct tape, first aid kits, rakes.
  • Made 192 health and mental health contacts providing access to medical services and emotional support.

Disaster Mental Health Support

A tornado leaves people bewildered, confused and afraid. Often much of what they have is gone, and sometimes friends and family are killed or injured. For those affected, the future is unknown, but the fear is present.

Additionally, a disaster can take away a person’s sense of control and what’s known and comfortable to them. Those affected by a tornado often feel emotionally and physically drained or incapable of making decisions.

Most people are eventually able to cope but for other is takes longer and isn’t something they can do alone. That’s where the Red Cross helps with Disaster Mental Health volunteers, which include psychologists, counselors and other experts. Teams go where the people are, including shelters, client service centers or out in the damaged areas.

If a person needs additional assistance, the Red Cross provides the names of local resources that can offer long-term assistance.

Preparing for Future Disasters

Severe weather is all too frequent in eastern NC, and directly following disasters people are more receptive to learn how they can prevent and respond to future emergencies. The Red Cross has taken this time to canvass tornado damaged communities to speak directly with residents about preparedness and how to stay safe during severe weather.

Teams of volunteers spent several weekends going door to door in affected communities handing out flyers with preparedness information, talking to residents about ways to secure their homes and keep their families safe, and showing them how to download Red Cross preparedness apps on their mobile devices.

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.

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Rebuilding the Family Home

The Harris Family receives supplies and support from Red Cross volunteers.

The Harris Family receives supplies and support from Red Cross volunteers.

Caleb and Shirley Harris have lived in their house since they built it in 1957. They raised their children there and now their grandson Derrick Meads lives there with them. However, the recent tornado took its toll on their home.

The Harris’ and their grandson were all home when the tornado touched down on their property. “It just came right in under the roof and tore up the back bedroom and then left to do damage to our buildings out back,” said Caleb.

Trees on the family’s mini farm were uprooted, the interior and exterior of the house were damaged, and part of an outbuilding was tossed across the street.   Caleb is grateful that his family and their animals were unharmed by the tornado.

The Red Cross stopped by the Harris’ to offer their support and provide the family with cleanup supplies as they worked to repair and rebuild their home. The Baptist Men, a partner organization of the Red Cross, went to the Harris home and cleared the uprooted trees. Because partnerships like this are established before disaster strikes, the Red Cross and other organizations can more readily respond to the needs of an impacted community.

Caleb’s daughter, Darlene Wharton, was in the area to help her parents with the cleanup and expressed her gratitude for the help from the Red Cross as well as the Baptist Men’s group.

A Long Path to Recovery

BEAUFORT COUNTY, NC (May 3, 2014) – For Duncan Blevins, the American Red Cross and other charitable organizations have been a Godsend.  On Friday, April 25, 2014, a devastating tornado ravaged his neighborhood, leaving destruction in its wake.

“I saw the tornado form and drop from the sky – it’s a horrible memory that I hope will someday go away,” said Blevins.

Red Cross volunteer Chase Jarvis hands a rake and clean up supplies to Duncan Blevins whose home was damaged in the tornado.

Red Cross volunteer Chase Jarvis hands a rake and clean up supplies to Duncan Blevins whose home was damaged in the tornado.

Blevins lived in a small home with his 17 year-old son.  Among the interesting discoveries pulled from beneath the rubble and massive debris in his yard were his son’s three bicycles.  Despite being located in three different areas behind his home prior to the tornado, they were melded and horribly warped into one another and buried beneath hundreds of pounds of destroyed trees.

“I thought for sure that those bikes were miles away (since we saw no sign of them following the storm),” said Blevins.  It was only after volunteers from local churches came and chopped up the trees did we find this jumbled mess (referring to the bikes).  I think I may keep them that way as an art exhibit or a bird bath.”

Duncan Blevins, a Beaufort County resident, tries to untangle his son's bicycles melded together by a massive tornado last week.

Duncan Blevins, a Beaufort County resident, tries to untangle his son’s bicycles melded together by a massive tornado last week.

Blevins has also found some comfort by speaking with Red Cross counselors.  “I have been having trouble sleeping ever since the storm, but by having someone I can talk to, it has really helped a great deal.  From neighbors, to church groups, to the Red Cross, the outpouring of support has been unbelievable.”

He also cautions other storm victims to protect themselves from identity theft.  “It’s hard to believe but there are criminals out there who prey on people in their worst times.  It can happen to anyone and do what you can to prevent it,” Blevins said.

“I think today is the first time that I can laugh about some of this,” Blevins said.  “At least I won’t need to buy firewood anytime soon!”

A Freight Train

CHOCOWINITY, NC (May 3, 2014) – Jerry and Carolyn Tyson were at home watching television when their phone rang.  It was their neighbor frantically calling to tell them that a tornado warning had been issued, meaning that a tornado was seen on the ground minutes away.

Jerry Tyson shows the solid oak table that shielded him and his wife, Carolyn, when a tornado destroyed the upper floor of his home last week.

Jerry Tyson shows the solid oak table that shielded him and his wife, Carolyn, when a tornado destroyed the upper floor of his home last week.

Having remembered instructions on a recent newscast that the safest place in their home was the lowest level of their home beneath a piece of sturdy furniture, they ran downstairs to a solid oak dining room table that used to be his mother’s.

“We no sooner got under the table and the worst sound you’ve ever heard erupted upstairs,” said Jerry.  “It sounded like forty freight trains bearing down upon us.  We started praying because I was certain that we were gone.”

In the tornado’s wake, the Tyson’s discovered their upstairs level was largely destroyed.  “That phone call saved our lives,” Jerry continued.  “After the storm, there have been so many volunteers and groups that have come to help us.  It truly is amazing!”

“We knew many of our neighbors, but only their faces when we’d pass them on the street,” said Carolyn.  “But now we feel just like family.  They ran to us offering to help in any way that they could.  The Red Cross, Salvation Army, and a number of church groups have really came through for us.  You don’t know what kind of community you have until faced with a crisis and we’re very blessed.”

To learn more about how you can help, please visit http://www.redcross.org.

 

It Takes a Village

Mason Smith, a member of Kitty Hawk Methodist Church, puts his chainsaw to the test by chopping trees and branches for residents devastated by a tornado last week.

Mason Smith, a member of Kitty Hawk Methodist Church, puts his chainsaw to the test by chopping trees and branches for residents devastated by a tornado last week.

BEAUFORT COUNTY, NC (May 3, 2014) – As American Red Cross volunteers distributed clean-up kits to area residents affected by last week’s devastating tornadoes, a number of other charitable organizations were busy pitching in as well.  From the buzz of an army of chainsaws to the crunch of dead tree branches being assembled for a waiting wood chipper, volunteers from the United Methodist Church were out in force to do as much work as they possibly can over this weekend.

Steve Green lives in Greenville, NC, and he brought his entire family out to help the affected residents piece back together their lives.  “We have so much and they have nothing, so our faith compelled us to come and do what we could,” said Green.  “I brought my children because they need to see this.  If they don’t learn that terrible things happen to good people now, they won’t learn it later.”

Steve Green and Mike Stroud, members of Covenant United Methodist Church in Greenville, NC, carry away debris from tornado-affected areas of Beaufort County.

Steve Green and Mike Stroud, members of Covenant United Methodist Church in Greenville, NC, carry away debris from tornado-affected areas of Beaufort County.

In addition to having dozens of volunteers, the United Methodist Church also trains for such disasters.  “We run an Early Responder’s Training that helps try to prepare our members for what they’ll encounter and what affected residents need following a natural disaster,” said Don Evans from Apex, NC.  “Our training is invaluable, I believe, in that it introduces them to what they should expect, but you need to see it firsthand to truly understand the importance of your work and the scope of the need.”