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.

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.”

Resident Affected by Beaufort County Tornado Shares Experience

Dustin and his girlfriend share their story with Red Cross volunteers in the area surveying damaging and assessing the needs of community members affected by the tornadoes.

Dustin Brooks Haddock, 27, spoke of his experience the night he was sitting in his mobile home off Asbury Church Rd, and he ran out the house into a ditch as the tornado came across his area. He spoke of being his home and heard the tornado warning go off on his radio. He watched outside filming the tornado unfold from across the river. The tornado came over his home and this is when Dustin ran into the ditch at the back of his home. He realized his mistake in hiding in the ditch when a tree split and fell two foot from his head.

Today, Dustin said that as soon as the storm passed “his neighbors came out of their homes and started doing a head count making sure everyone in the community was alright” before they either left their homes or came to the shelter.

While the Red Cross was in the area doing disaster assessment, bulk distribution and handing out snacks and drinks; we met several of our community partners. Partners are assisting families in their recovery. Dustin remarked that “its the community you don’t know that makes you grateful for where you live”.

Washington Bojangles Donates Meals for Tornado Victims

By James Jarvis & Tara Humphries, Public Affairs Volunteers, American Red CrossChocowinity NC 4-27-14-9905-2

Kevin Robinson, general manager for Bojangles’ restaurants in Beaufort County, NC, calls eastern NC home.  When a number of devastating tornadoes struck the region Friday night, Robinson checked on his neighbors, family and friends, and his employees.  Soon thereafter, he received a call from the American Red Cross requesting food assistance for area residents whose homes were in the path of the devastating storms.  He couldn’t say no.

“Absolutely – [The Red Cross] had a need and gave us a call.  We wanted to do anything we could to help,” said Robinson.  “We started making preparations last night so that we could produce all the additional meals we would need to provide today.”

Robinson and his Bojangles’ team provided 500 meals, or the equivalent of a routine weekday’s volume.

“We requested an additional chicken shipment so that we could meet the need,” Robinson explained.  “By 11 a.m. the meals were prepared and packaged and our employees were loading them into the Red Cross’ emergency response vehicle for immediate distribution.”

The American Red Cross could not fulfill its mission to care for residents affected by tragedies such as this week’s tornado without the generous donations of individuals and community businesses such as Bojangles restaurant.  To learn how you can help, please visit redcross.org.

 

Tornado Surprises Woman & her Dog

James Jarvis, an American Red Cross volunteer, distributes meals to Mrs. Judy Durbin and her mother following a tornado that destroyed her home.
James Jarvis, an American Red Cross volunteer, distributes meals to Mrs. Judy Durbin and her mother following a tornado that destroyed her home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy Durbin was sitting on her couch in Chocowinity, watching television with her dog, Sammy.  In a matter of seconds and without warning, her life was turned upside down by a tornado.

“My power went out and the next thing I knew the windows blew in.  It happened just that fast!  I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening, and then it was gone,” she said.

The house had collapsed all around her, except the roof over her head and two windows behind her.

Durbin was sitting on her couch with Sammy held tightly in her arms, trying to figure out what had just happened, when her neighbor, Duncan, stepped in through what had until moments ago been a window.  “Why are you coming through my window,” she recounted thinking.

A transplanted Beaufort County resident, Durbin spent most of her life living in the midwestern United States – a place far more accustomed to tornadic activity.  During the majority of her life, she experienced not a single natural disaster.  She moved to North Carolina 15 years ago and since then has been through three.

This is also the third time she has been assisted by the American Red Cross.  During Hurricanes Floyd & Fran, she experienced severe flooding and the Red Cross was there to provide “just about everything we needed.”

“I think a lot of the Red Cross,” Durbin said.

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

30 Years Ago Today: Red Cross Worker Recounts Devastating Tornado

This story is from Tammy Forrester, CEO for the Wayne and Lenoir County Chapters of the American Red Cross

Thirty years ago today my little brother and I survived a tornado hitting our house while we were in it.  It’s as fresh in my mind today as if it were yesterday.

 Red Cross CEO, Tammy Forrester (left) comforts Kinston resident, Ida Jackson, after an apartment fire. with  Lenoir County Red Cross board member William Taylor.

Red Cross CEO, Tammy Forrester (left) comforts Kinston resident, Ida Jackson, after an apartment fire. with Lenoir County Red Cross board member William Taylor.

I didn’t know back then that I would ever be working for the American Red Cross. All I knew was that while I walked towards a sea of people standing in the intersection of our devastated neighborhood, that the first set of eyes that met mine was a little lady wearing a Red Cross vest.  She took us to the volunteer fire station were a shelter had been set up.

We stayed at the shelter for a couple of hours until our parents were found.  It was dry, safe, and we felt protected.  I watched her, with a hopeful smile on her face, help people that she had never seen and might not see again but for a brief time she comforted them and eased their anxiety.

There are days that I ask myself why I do what I do, but on days like today when my mind remembers that experience, I know.  I do not remember the volunteers name but I will NEVER forget what she did and how she made me feel.

 

More on deadly tornado outbreak from WCTI

Tornado Response in Carteret County

Melvin Hoard thanks Red Cross CEO Bill Brent for the support he received after his house was destroyed by a tornado.
Melvin Hoard thanks Red Cross CEO Bill Brent for the support he received after his house was destroyed by a tornado.

The American Red Cross has been providing assistance to residents of Carteret County whose homes were damaged or destroyed by severe storms and tornadoes that hit the area on November 26, less than two days before Thanksgiving.  Caseworkers met individually with each of the 16 families to determine their immediate emergency needs and provided shelter, clothing, food, minor medical care, supplies, and emotional support.

Melvin Hoard, a resident of Atlantic Beach, received support from the Red Cross after the tornado ripped the roof of his home.  Hoard sustained some minor injuries and said he is lucky to be alive.

“I just can’t tell you how much the support of the Red Cross has meant to me and my neighbors,” said Hoard

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Volunteers canvassed neighborhoods affected by the severe storms and tornadoes to hand out disaster preparedness and response information and inform them of Red Cross services.

Teams of disaster workers canvassed the damaged areas following the storms to make sure people had access to the Red Cross services and information about preparing for and responding to emergencies.

After experiencing what it is like to survive a tornado, Hoard tells others about the importance of heeding storm warnings. “”If you hear a warning or a watch, treat it like it’s knocking at your front door,” advises Hoard.

American Red Cross disaster preparedness starts long before storms hit the area, beginning with keeping supplies and equipment on stand-by all year to help people in need. People are encouraged to take preparedness in their own hands by downloading Red Cross preparedness apps for mobile devices or visiting redcross.org/prepare to create a personal preparedness plan.

The Red Cross has been meeting with fellow community partners to help facilitate long term housing solutions for the families that remain homeless.  Hoard and other tornado victims are grateful for the outpouring of support from local organizations and community members.

“When I get back on my feet; I want to do something to help the Red Cross the same way they have helped me,” said Hoard.

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Volunteers Sonia Johnson (left) and Lanikai Morbley load up supplies to take to residents affected by the tornado.

All Red Cross disaster assistance is free and made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. A financial gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need.

To make a donation to the Red Cross visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.