A Few Words From Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Just in, a digital Postcard from Red Cross Volunteer PJ Doyle:

Photo credit: PJ Doyle/American Red Cross
Photo credit: PJ Doyle/American Red Cross

The 2013 Hattiesburg, Mississippi tornado was a large and violent EF4 multiple-vortex wedge tornado that devastated portions of Hattiesburg, as well as smaller communities and rural areas in the same area, during the late afternoon and early evening of Sunday, February 10, 2013.

The tornado moved into the northern part of downtown Hattiesburg, where it caused significant damage to the American Red Cross, roughly 300 homes and other buildings, as well as to the University of Southern Mississippi campus.

Thankfully, there was no loss of life.

Despite the devastation to their own facility, the American Red Cross Mississippi Region staff and volunteers were immediately active in responding to the community.  Within hours, the National ARC also activated teams to support the response.

I have been deployed as a Client Services Casework Supervisor and arrived in Hattiesburg on February 14 and began immediate services to the residents of the area shelters.  Susanne Jacobs, also from Minneapolis, joined the Client Services team on February 19.  Red Cross caseworkers help individuals with immediate, disaster-related needs by meeting them one-on-one to provide guidance and support during their recovery process.

Photo credit: PJ Doyle/American Red Cross
Photo credit: PJ Doyle/American Red Cross

Over the course of the last 10 days, the Red Cross has served more than 20,000 meals, 85,000 snacks and more than 20,000 bulk items such as blankets, clean up kits and other supplies. Nearly 30 individuals remain in shelters in Forrest and Lamar counties in the affected area.

The relief operation is moving now from the response into the recovery stage and client casework is shifting as well. For client services, this means transitioning the work in shelters, outreach and Disaster Recovery Centers into long term individual family casework. Each caseworker will be assigned up to 3 client families to work with as they determine how to return to some semblance of normalcy in their lives.

Additionally, as I send this note (and some photos from the scene) we are hunkered down as the area is under another tornado watch. Mother Nature is active with wind and rain and there is likely to be flooding to further complicate the lives here is Mississippi.

More than 200 Red Cross volunteers are on the job in Hattiesburg from all across the country and in all disaster response disciplines. Each of us are saddened by the destruction to lives and community, but we feel grateful to have the training to be able to respond in a meaningful way.

(Thank you PJ and all of the Red Cross disaster relief workers responding to this disaster. We’re grateful that you’re there helping people.)

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