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American Red Cross shelters hundreds displaced by Kansas Floods
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Kate Fowlie
 
July 5, 2007

Ten-year-old Michael Jones and his family are among the hundreds of people who have found shelter with the American Red Cross after being left homeless by severe flooding in Southeast Kansas.

Michael Jones, 10, keeps busy helping out while he and his family stay at a Red Cross shelter in Coffeyville, Kansas.  Photo Credit:  Ed Porter/American Red Cross
Michael Jones, 10, keeps busy helping out while he and his family stay at a Red Cross shelter in Coffeyville, Kansas.

Coffeyville resident Virgil Ormes talks with a Red Cross volunteer outside his Kansas home, which was heavily damaged by severe flooding in the area. The flood water mark is visible on the side of his house.  Photo Credit:  Ed Porter/American Red Cross
Coffeyville resident Virgil Ormes talks with a Red Cross volunteer outside his Kansas home, which was heavily damaged by severe flooding in the area. The flood water mark is visible on the side of his house.

Jessica Lopez, 15, of Osawatomie, Kansas, escaped her home with only a few clothes after severe flooding destroyed her family's home. She is staying with her family at a Red Cross shelter.  Photo Credit:  Ed Porter/American Red Cross
Jessica Lopez, 15, of Osawatomie, Kansas, escaped her home with only a few clothes after severe flooding destroyed her family's home. She is staying with her family at a Red Cross shelter.

All Photos Courtesy of Ed Porter/American Red Cross

Michael's home has been the shelter at Coffeyville's Southern Baptist Church since June 30 after the area received up to 20 inches of rain and forced more than 800 people to evacuate just in his town. Since then, the Red Cross has opened three shelters in the Coffeyville-Independence area and is running another shelter a couple of hundred miles north in Osawatomie, KS.

The third grader has been keeping busy, helping his great-grandmother, Carol Patillo, 66, get around in her wheelchair and he is also pitching in at the shelter. "I've been running around and playing. And I have been sweeping floors, taking out the trash and helping in the kitchen," Michael said, proudly listing his jobs.

Many of those displaced will never be able to return home. Virgil Orms, 21, and his father were some of the first residents to be allowed back in to their neighborhood in Coffeyville to see what they could salvage. Orms wore a face mask and muck boots because of the heavy stench of sewage and the black sludge left by flood water contaminated with oil. The area is under a boil water order because of the contamination.

The water mark is five feet high on the side of Orms' home. His car was destroyed and so was most everything in his family's home. They were able to save some photos that were hanging on the walls, but not much else. "But these are just possessions, we got out okay and we got out our dogs," Orms said.

Some neighborhoods remain submerged under water and some roads are impassable, many residents don't know how badly their houses are damaged. Many will rely on the Red Cross for housing until they can return to their homes or relocate.

Osawatomie suffered severe flooding as well. The Lopez Family lost the home they rent there and all their possessions. Frederick Lopez, his girlfriend, Jessica Montgomery, his 12-year-old daughter, and his sons, ages 3, 7 and 11, have been staying in the Osawatomie shelter for five days and don't know what their future holds. "We're already low-income so this is rough," Jessica Montgomery said. "But we're together and nobody's hurt so we're grateful."

Writer Kate Fowlie is a volunteer from the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.
Photographer Ed Porter is a volunteer from Sioux Land Area 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.


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