As Red Cross worker Amanda Christopher drove into the Burnett's Mill neighborhood just outside Suffolk, Virginia, early today, the full extent of the damage caused by Monday's powerful storms became apparent. The morning sun revealed that hundreds of homes and business had sustained heavy damage, and the need for American Red Cross relief services was evident.
Photo credit Chris Tyree/The Virginian-Pilot
"There is not one home untouched. It is just utter destruction," said Christopher. "There were bikes everywhere, swimming pools, trampolines. It was unbelievable."
Soon after the storms hit, the Red Cross formed a partnership with the City of Suffolk and provided much-needed shelter supplies. Today the Red Cross is starting its mass feeding efforts for storm victims, emergency workers, and clean-up crews. Mobile feeding vehicles have moved into the area to distribute food provided, in part, by partner agencies.
The Red Cross is also working with local public health authorities to ensure enough nurses are available to tend to those who lost prescription medications or may need basic first aid. Mental health workers are starting to meet with disaster victims and those who were injured.
"There was a feeding truck when we first went into the damaged area, and now there are mental health workers," said Red Cross worker Jason Golden, who is traveling with Christopher. "It's definitely been a comfort to people. Mental health is the number-one need here right now."
In addition to providing food and health services, the Red Cross is also assessing the condition of homes in the area. This information will help the Red Cross determine how many people need help and how much help they will need. That information is often shared with state, local, and federal government agencies to aid in their planning efforts as well.
Because local telephone lines are down, the Red Cross is encouraging local residents to use the Safe and Well service to stay in touch with family and friends. The Safe and Well Website provides disaster victims with a confidential way to let their loved ones know of their general location and status. It can be accessed at www.RedCross.org.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; 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 humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.