Allen Crabtree, Contributing Writer
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 — Thousands of people across the south are sifting through the rubble left behind after deadly tornadoes swept through their neighborhoods over the weekend. The American Red Cross is with them, offering shelter, food, and a shoulder to lean on as the clean-up slowly begins.
The Red Cross is helping people across several states and will continue to assist them in the weeks ahead as they try to get back on their feet. More than 650 Red Cross disaster workers have been deployed, and are working with state and local officials to help those affected by the devastating tornadoes. The Red Cross has more than 50 emergency response vehicles in the area, working with community partners to provide food and water to those in need. Red Cross disaster mental health workers are available to help people cope in the aftermath of the storms.
Lives of entire families have been changed by the storms. One family from Wake Forest, North Carolina described what has happened to them since a tornado hit their home.
‘It sounded like a freight train coming through our home!’
It has taken a couple of days, but Leobardo Olvera, his wife Rosa and their three children have started to settle into tHe routine of the Red Cross shelter in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which is just north of Raleigh. This has been their temporary home since the family evacuated from the Stony Brook Trailer Park after it was hit hard by a tornado on April 16.
“We were warned about severe thunderstorms coming through our area, and I made the children come inside to be safe,” Olvera said, sitting on the edge of his cot in the shelter’s dormitory. “The tornado caught us completely by surprise though!”
Olvera told how he and Rosa gathered 5-year-old son Leo Jr, 7-year-old daughter Lezith and 11-year-old son Mario in the center of their mobile home, away from any windows. When the tornado struck it shook the entire trailer and air pressure blew out all the windows.
“It only lasted about five minutes, but it seemed like a train was going to come right through our home,” he said. Twenty minutes after it passed, the family emerged from their home to a bright sunny sky and a horrible scene of destruction. Trailers on either side of them had been blown into pieces and big pines had fallen on others.
Olvera is a fighter and a survivor. He has been battling leukemia for two years and has defeated it, although his face shows the scars of his fight. He has been unable to work because of his cancer, but was able to purchase their trailer and move the family into it about a year ago.
“I don’t know what my family and I would have done without the support of the Red Cross,” he said. “We have lost everything, and it is only through the kindness and generosity of the Red Cross that we are going to be able to make a start back. Without the Red Cross we would have had nothing!”
Raleigh Chief of Police Dolan announced Monday afternoon to an anxious crowd that residents of the Stony Brook Trailer Park would be allowed short term visits to their trailers to pick up personal items needed. “No one will be allowed back to live there just yet,” he said. “It is not quite safe enough.” Of the approximately 150 homes in the park, the tornado completely destroyed 25 and a total of 30 are uninhabitable.
The Olvera family will visit their home today for the first time since being evacuated. “We’re not going to bring the children the first time back,” Olvera said. “It has been hard enough for them without making them go through that. What would we have done without the Red Cross?”
Busy season for disasters
In the last few weeks, Red Cross disaster workers have responded in 20 different states, helping people affected by floods, tornadoes and wildfires. Prior to this weekend’s severe weather, Red Cross workers were already helping residents all across the country whose communities are recovering from floods, tornadoes and wildfires.
The Red Cross and its partners have served nearly 46,000 meals and more than 159,800 snacks to those affected by disasters in just the last two months alone. More than 650 Red Cross disaster workers and 50 emergency response vehicles have already been deployed this spring to areas of the country where flooding, tornadoes and wildfires have left widespread damage in people’s neighborhoods.
The Red Cross depends on financial donations to get help to people affected by disasters. Please consider making a donation today to help to those in need. Visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.