This story is written by Red Cross volunteer Allen Crabtree.
Not since the Great Flood of 1927 have the Mississippi River and its tributaries risen so high nor spread so wide. Tens of thousands of residents from Illinois to Louisiana have been forced from their homes and entire communities have been inundated. Flood waters will not recede for several weeks, into June. The Mississippi flooding was preceded by the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1925 that killed hundreds across seven states and demolished countless homes and businesses.
The Red Cross has been there from the beginning of these huge natural disasters, helping those impacted by the tornadoes and flooding, and will continue to be there while the waters recede and people return to their homes and a normal life.
The Mississippi floods are a disaster of epic proportions, but they have also been a disaster moving in slow motion. The rivers have risen slowly and waters have relentlessly covered homes and fields at a deliberate pace. People and communities have had time to react, moving their possessions to higher ground and evacuating in an orderly manner with thankfully little loss of life.
The flood waters will recede just as slowly as they have risen. It will be weeks before they drop enough to allow reopening flood-covered roads and for people to return to what is left of their flooded homes and neighborhoods. The cleanup could take months. Red Cross will be here for the long haul as disaster response transitions into disaster recovery and our role, and our visible presence, will change.
To prepare for an active role in the recovery phase the Red Cross has prepositioned supplies at warehouses in the area with cleaning supplies and food. Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) are deployed and are ready to respond once flood waters recede. Working with our partners the Red Cross will provide bulk distribution of cleaning supplies and other items needed by residents cleaning up after the flooding. The Red Cross has agreements with the Southern Baptist Convention to set up field kitchens and prepare food that we will distribute to homeowners throughout affected neighborhoods. Red Cross mental health professionals are available to help residents through the trauma of the disaster, and we have distributed information so that residents can stay safe while cleaning up their homes. During this transition we are also actively training Red Cross volunteers who will play an important role in the recovery phase.
Disasters come in all sizes and impacts and while the Mississippi flood disaster relief and recovery operation continues, local Red Cross units will also be there to respond to local emergencies such as house fires.
Although our role will change, the Red Cross was here from the beginning and will be here, providing aid and support, as long as we are needed.