DES MOINES — Iowa volunteers with the American Red Cross are already providing help in the South after weekend storms spun off at least 50 tornadoes in eight states.
Josh Murray, spokesman for the Iowa-Nebraska region of the Red Cross, says most of the Iowans are now in western Kentucky, where the damage is extreme and one entire town was nearly wiped off the map. “We have some from eastern Iowa, we have some from central Iowa, we have someone from up near Sioux City, so really across the state,” Murray says, “We’re represented well with our responders.”
Driving those white emergency response vehicles, or ERVs, the Iowa volunteers will be providing a range of services, from feeding and sheltering tornado survivors to helping them mentally recover from the massive, devastating storm. “There’ll be some that work in shelters helping people who are going to be in the shelters. We have some folks going down to help with warehouses, making sure they get supplies out,” Murray says. “They’ll help load trucks and drive trucks and unload trucks. We also have some who’ll go down to help with mental health, to have someone to be there and give emotional support.”
The number of dead is expected to exceed 100 with many dozens injured and a few thousand left homeless. A Kentucky candle factory was hit by a twister as was an Amazon warehouse in Illinois and a nursing home in Arkansas. One tornado was reportedly on the ground for more than 220 miles. “It’s definitely one of the largest and worst impacts, especially for this time of year. We’re used to seeing these maybe in the spring but to happen this time of year is really unusual,” Murray says. “The widespread destruction that’s taken place, the number of people it’s impacted. We anticipate being there for a while. This will be a long-term process, a long-term response for us.”
Iowans who would like to help financially can call 800-RED CROSS, log on to www.redcross.org, or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.