A field report from Pennsylvania following the flood

Greetings,

One destroyed house along the route where Red Cross volunteers are providing meals and snacks following the Pennsylvania flooding. Photo credit: Rick Campion/American Red Cross

It’s now day 11 in our Pennsylvania flood deployment with the Red Cross and we’ve settled into a regular mobile feeding route in the mobile feeding truck (ERV).  We travel about 2 hours to get to our first scheduled stop and then serve between 100-150 meals.  Our route follows the river and some of the homes that were very close to the river bank (see pic).  We recognize our “regulars” and it’s fun to give and get hugs from people who really appreciate the help that the Red Cross provides.  Ah, this our reward.

When people see “Minneapolis, MN” on the side of our truck, they’re always surprised and grateful at how far we’ve traveled to serve them.

The Red Cross disaster relief effort in Pennsylvania has served more than 221,000 meals/snacks and it is now down to 4 open shelters.  We can see that people are slowly getting back on their feet.  Many of the original shelters were opened in schools and it causes some logistical problems with the school’s now regularly scheduled activities.  So after 3 weeks, those affected by the floods are encouraged to find alternate housing arrangements.

We expect to be released from the operation next week and look forward to coming home.

Take care and God bless,
Rick and Karen

Many hands made Minneapolis tornado clean-up day possible

Paul Vanderheiden is among more than 340 Red Cross disaster relief workers responding to the May 22 tornado in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

When volunteers arrived for their shifts during the Minneapolis tornado clean-up day on June 4, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer likely received them, a Salvation Army worker probably handed them a meal, and American Red Cross responder gave them bandage packs, gloves, and other useful field supplies such as hand sanitizer and sunscreen.

Once in the disaster area, workers might have made contact with Red Cross mobile feeding trucks supporting the workers on what felt like the first day of summer.

“We’re out here to make sure these folks have enough water and snacks in all this heat,” said Paul Vanderheiden, a Red Cross volunteer from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Parking his van near a group of workers, Paul offered them advice. “Make sure you get some salt. Want some chips with that?”

Red Cross disaster relief worker Chris Thomsen surveys the unloading of water during the Minneapolis tornado clean up day on June 4. Photo credit: Bill Fitler/American Red Cross

Paul and fellow volunteer Chris Thomsen had been driving their mobile feeding vehicle around these neighborhoods every day since they had arrived the previous Saturday.

“Back home I’m a surgical nurse,” said Chris. “This is the first time I’ve worked outside the chapter on a disaster. We’ve been out here long enough so I’m starting to know folks, and I’ve been so touched by some of the stories I’ve heard.”

Paul and Chris are among more than 340 Red Cross workers, from as far away as California and Connecticut, helping people affected by the Minneapolis tornado.

To date, Red Cross disaster relief workers have distributed more than 145,000 meals and snacks to affected families and clean-up crews responding to this tornado disaster.

(Reporting by Bill Fitler, Red Cross volunteer)

Preparedness Has Made the Difference

Joan Egge's family is safe from the Red River’s high waters because of preparedness measures, such as temporary clay dikes. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

By Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross

To appreciate the rising of the Red River, you have to see it. Water appears to spread from horizon to horizon across this northern prairie landscape.

With waters reaching nearly 40 feet in some areas, what would have been a major crisis in past years is mostly a threat under control because of preparation.

For example, clay dikes and sump pumps are protecting many homes, including one in Oakport Township north of Moorhead, Minnesota, where Joan Egge has lived for eighteen years.

“Because we’ve been preparing and preparing you’d kind of hate it if didn’t flood,” says Egge.

Red Cross vigilance remains high as the Red River’s high waters continue to move north and threaten rural communities. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Sandbagging started in early February. Since then the Red Cross has providing more than 150,000 beverages and meals to community volunteers and other responders who have worked to hold back the water both day and night.

“Preparedness is in many ways the greatest piece of what the Red Cross does,” says Tom Tezel, a Red Cross emergency services director leading the response on the ground.

Every disaster is different, but in general the Red Cross responds when the disaster is done, such as when a tornado has swept through a town or an earthquake has struck.

Since early February, Tom Tezel has been leading the Red Cross disaster response to the 2011 Red River flood. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Here, the Red Cross response started during the preparedness phase before the waters started to rise.

“Our mission includes preparedness,” says Tezel. “We can’t wait for disaster.”

Red Cross disaster responders continue to watch and respond, especially as the high water flows north into largely rural areas, cutting off families from essential resources.

Egge, whose family and dog Henry are safe only yards from the Red River, agrees that preparedness is very important. She’s grateful for the help her community has received.

“I know the Red Cross does a wonderful job,” says Egge. “The people here are true heroes.”

Red Cross TC asks: Is the Red Cross ready if it floods?

Jill, our director of emergency services, answers:

A Red Cross volunteer hands out snacks during the flood preparations in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

We have shelters ready to open their doors for us in the Twin Cities metro area if flooding displaces people from their homes.  We have clean-up kits containing mops, brooms, cleaning supplies, gloves, and other necessities, ready to hand to people who are cleaning up their homes.  We have thousands (literally!) of snacks and bottles of water in our garage, for us and other chapters around the state to share from mobile feeding trucks (ERVs) or at shelters.  We have lots of trained and willing volunteers, many who have stepped forward and have added to their training in recent months so their skills are fresh.  Many, many volunteers have stepped forward to help in all of these efforts so that we’re more ready to quickly help people…whether it floods or not!  So my answer is a resounding, “yes!”

Red Cross TC: Thank you!! We suspected this was the case, but wanted to ask anyway, being the curious types that we are!!

Red Cross “mass care” means food + drink

The Red Cross has served thousands of meals to people working to hold back the rising Red River waters. Right now, Mark Doble, a Red Cross volunteer from the Twin Cities, is up north managing mass care (aka watering and feeding) for this disaster operation.

Mark reports: “In Fargo, we are getting ready to start sandbagging operations. What I mean is that we are going to start feeding people as all of the sand bags that have been pre-made are now being put around the homes. It’s been great here and the Red Cross Minn-Kota Chapter has been wonderful. I’m looking forward to getting home.”

Our mass care man, Mark Doble, up north. Photo credit: Tammie Pech/American Red Cross