Less than three months after a blizzard paralyzed Southeastern Colorado, a deadly tornado tore through the tight-knit community of Holly Wednesday night, splintering homes and scattering their contents.
"I've watched other people's disasters on television and have seen the Red Cross travel across the country to help, but I never thought it would happen to me. Now, it's my family that needs help," said Rose Marie Jones of Holly, Colorado. Red Cross worker Mark Brinkerhoff listened as the high school librarian described how her husband braced himself to fight the severe winds when the storm ripped through their family room on Wednesday night. (Photo Credit: American Red Cross)
Months ahead of tornado season and without warning, the funnel cloud touched down just before 8 p.m. and bullied its way straight through the small town that sits four-miles west of the Kansas border, killing one woman and injuring eight others. Grasping at electrical lines and uprooting trees, the powerful storm damaged more than 100 homes in its 7-mile wake.
"This tragic disaster has undoubtedly and unfortunately changed the lives of dozens of local families forever," said Eric Corliss, disaster relief operation director. "They are our loved ones, our friends and our neighbors, and in our tradition of neighbors-helping-neighbors, the Red Cross is here to provide help and hope during a time of great need.
Together, Red Cross volunteers from the Pikes Peak Chapter in Colorado and Garden City Area Chapter in Kansas quickly established an emergency shelter at the Anna Bryce School in Holly to provide displaced residents with a safe place to stay following the tornado.
At the first signs of daylight, additional volunteers deployed from the Mile High Chapter in Denver and reached out to the affected neighborhoods, distributing food, water and other relief supplies as residents surveyed the damage. Partnering with the Salvation Army, the chapters have served more than 4,000 meals and snacks from its mobile and fixed feeding sites, as of Friday, March 30, 2019. Today, volunteers continue to travel throughout area, distributing building-repair supplies and supporting emergency crews during arduous clean-up effort.
Red Cross outreach teams are actively assessing the community's emergency needs, and volunteer caseworkers have begun to meet one-on-one with the individuals and families affected to help them cope with and recover from their losses. Additionally, trained disaster mental health workers are available to provide emotional support community members and emergency workers.
"The compassion Red Cross volunteers show our neighbors in times of crisis is one of our most valuable services," Corliss said. A warm smile, simple hug and shoulder to lean on reminds those impacted that they are not alone in the disaster recovery process.
For more information about tornadoes and what you can do to prepare and cope with disasters, visit the "Get Prepared" section of RedCross.org or contact your local Red Cross chapter.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.