Story: Tropical Storm Debby Disaster Relief Update

July 9, 2012

This story is written by Red Crosser Lou Palm.

Outside Florida, hundreds of Red Cross clients remain sheltered from the elements provided a safe environment, food, and disaster relief supplies. Within Florida two shelters remain open providing the same for 49 sheltered residents and several hundred in their homes. This, two weeks following the ravaging of Tropical Storm Debby.

Today Red Cross volunteers from as far away from Sacramento, California remain joined in the Lake City, Florida area staffing shelters, manning disaster relief supply points of distribution, and filling back side roles to support the 350 members of DR 642-12.

 A Red Cross warehouse worker moves disaster relief supplies at the Lake City, Florida DRO warehouse.

Red Cross clients continue to receive bulk disaster relief supplies comprised of clean-up kits, comfort kits, water, tarps, and heater meals. Additionally, client caseworkers continue to provide services to clients including financial assistance where appropriate.

As Red Cross, FEMA and community partner assistance is provided, TS Debby shelter resident numbers continue to decline. However, with elevated levels restricting access to several neighborhoods, recovery will be a long term process.

Two Red Cross volunteers provide a Lake City, Florida Resident with disaster relief supplies

The Red Cross and community partnership team remains dedicated to providing recovery assistance to the greatest extent possible while helping the clients and residents of the area move forward. As it is throughout the nation’s affected areas “thanks for your help is heard”, followed by the Red Cross reply of “we’re happy to be here”.


Story: July 4th Celebrations at Florida Shelter

July 5, 2012

This story was written by Red Cross worker Lou Palm.

Tropical Storm Debby Relief
Live Oak shelter residents and staff enjoy an old fashioned all American 4th of July barbeque.

For the past week 70 residents of the Live Oak, Florida area have called the Suwannee County Agricultural Coliseum American Red Cross shelter home. While the staff and residents have made the environment as positive as possible, it is still a disaster shelter.

Yesterday, our national holiday was reason to leave some of the issues of the day on the back burner. The community of Live Oak coordinated an old fashioned back yard barbeque for the residents and staff. Hot dogs and burgers were on the grill, potato salad was plated and watermelon fell victim to the knife. Children and adults took part in water balloon games, and rubber duck races.

Community partners provided bus service for shelter residents to transit into town to do some shopping, refill prescriptions, or just spend some time out of the shelter environment.

Representatives from FEMA joined the festivities and initiated discussions with the adult residents about the next step toward their recovery. Over the next several days, families and FEMA will get together and work in tandem with the Red Cross staff to develop a plan for their recovery.


Story: One of Life’s Surprises

July 3, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross worker Louis P. Palm

Tropical Storm Debby
Bruce Johnson updating his losses at an American Red Cross shelter in Live Oak, Florida.

Bruce Johnson is a young retired 77 year old who was caught in one of life’s surprises.

In late June 2012 Bruce was traveling north from Pine Island, Florida to visit family in Georgia. Along the way he camped at various scenic sites. One of those was the banks of the Suwannee River in the vicinity of White Lake, Florida.

On the evening of June 25th Bruce settled in for a third night of rain from Tropical Storm Debby. It was this evening the tent started leaking and Bruce retreated to his vehicle for shelter and a night’s sleep. As he settled in he noticed the river was 15 feet below his camp site. During the evening, Debby drastically changed the situation.

Bruce woke to find water lapping at the door of his Jeep. Deciding he should get out of the area he soon found driving out was not an option. He called the local law enforcement to let them know his location and grabbing his computer and cell phone, Bruce headed for dry land. Soon the water was up to his chest and instead of walking out, the seventy-seven year old was forced to swim to safety.

As the police arrived Bruce climbed an embankment and escaped the flooding Suwannee. Following treatment by emergency medical personal and a short visit to the local emergency room Bruce was taken to the American Red Cross shelter located next to the hospital. With the exception of medications and the remains of his computer and cell phone, Bruce lost everything.

On Monday July 2nd, Bruce was able to renew his driver’s license and start making arrangements for his immediate future. During his stay at the shelter Bruce witnessed the growth of the operation from limited staff members serving many clients to a well run comfortable environment where the residents are safe and receiving their immediate needs of shelter and feeding.


Story: Bulk Distribution in Florida

July 3, 2012

Florida Flooding Relief
American Red Cross Volunteer Doree Trent thanks Carrie Gorreia of Lake City Florida Catholic Charities for her support at the Gar Pond Distribution Point.

Carrie Correia of the Lake City, Florida Catholic Charities manages a community bulk distribution point at Gar Pond on the outskirts of Lake City. Disaster relief supplies are provided by the American Red Cross and Feeding America.

American Red Cross disaster relief supplies include: comfort and clean-up kits and tarps. Feeding America provides water and meals pre-packaged for four persons.

Carrie has been at the site, twelve hours a day, since Thursday June 28 and expects the distribution point to remain open as long as there is a need and the supplies keep coming.

One of the earliest beneficiaries of the site was the family of Jacob and Lana Critchlow whose home was flooded by the rains of Tropical Storm Debby and cut-off from the community. The Critchlow family evacuated their home by boat and went to friends until the flood water receded. Immediately upon hearing of the distribution point opening in late June the Critchlow family began shuttling disaster relief supplies by boat from the distribution site back into the neighborhood.

Florida Flooding Relief
Jacob Critchlow loads Red Cross comfort kits for his family at the Gar Pond bulk distribution point in Lake City Florida.

Today, July 1, 2012 the Critchlow family was able to drive from their home to receive additional clean-up kits and drinking water. The flood water is slowly receding, but it will be several days before the situation is completely resolved. Lana Critchlow expressed the gratitude of not only her family, but of the entire community, for the rapid response of the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Feeding American and the other community partners who assisted the Lake City residents.

Florida Flooding Relief
Members of the Critchlow family loaded with disaster relief supplies leave the Gar Pond distribution point in Lake City Florida.


Story: Tropical Storm Debby

July 2, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer Vicki Eichstaedt.

Tropical Storm Debby
Juanita Plummer, Joyce Riley, and LaWanda Jones stayed in the Suannee Coliseum Complex Shelter in Live Oak, FL. Their homes were flooded by Tropical Storm Debby.

Pulling up a chair at the long table, Juanita Plummer sat down and bowed her head, saying a few words of thanks before opening the hot lunch provided by American Red Cross disaster partner, The Salvation Army. Joyce Riley and Lawanda Jones soon joined Juanita and me, as I asked to join them.

All three ladies were evacuated from the rising waters that engulfed their homes in Live Oak after TS Debby dumped record amounts of rain across Florida in her wake. Juanita remarked, “I have just never seen anything like it, it was so much, so fast, and I was really scared. I was never so glad to see the beautiful fire truck that rescued me, I would just love to have my name inscribed on that fire truck because I will always remember it!”

Lawanda and her grandkids were evacuated by airboat from their flooded home. “I knew we weren’t going to get out on our own,” Lawanda said. “It was hard to imagine how anything could get to us. Just then, I heard an incredible noise and I thought it was a plane – but it was an airboat! Oh my, I just couldn’t believe it, but my grandkids loved it!”

Joyce was the most stoic of the group, because of a childhood memory. When Joyce was 9 or 10 years old Hurricane Dora forced Joyce’s family, including 9 bothers and sisters, to flee their home by boat(s). “They needed two boats to get us all out,” she recalled with a wry smile, “and we were all very frightened.” The terrible memories came back in a rush as Joyce pounded on neighbor’s doors to alert them to the danger from the rising water.

“You never know what life has in store for you from day to day, but I knew one thing,” Joyce said with conviction, “The Red Cross was there when I was a child, and I knew they would be again. God has angels here on earth, and the people from the Red Cross are proof.”

These lovely ladies all noted their “luck” and their thankfulness to still be alive. “If we have to start over again, we will start over again.” Lawanda noted, “We are here, we are safe, we have our families and each other.”

Soon our lunch conversation turned to more pleasant memories, shared life experiences, stories of our children and bad hair days! I haven’t laughed that much in weeks. I left them all with hugs, they thanked me and the Red Cross, I thanked them for reminding me why I am proud to be a Red Cross volunteer.


Photos: Tropical Storm Debby

July 2, 2012

Tropical Storm Debby

Tropical Storm Debby Tropical Storm Debby Tropical Storm Debby

See entire “Tropical Storm Debby” set on Flickr >>


Press Release: Red Cross Services Being Delivered in Florida

June 29, 2012

Red Cross Services Being Delivered in Florida

Tampa, Fl, June 28, 2012 – American Red Cross services continue to be delivered to those affected by Tropical Storm Debby. Additional personnel and resources continue to arrive in Tampa Bay and throughout the state.

Rivers continue to rise in northern Florida causing some isolated flooding and sinkholes, a common occurrence throughout Florida after heavy rain, are beginning to appear. The sinkholes are caused by Florida’s soft soil and overlaying a porous limestone that is weakened by acid in the rain.

No matter the situation, Red Cross services are being delivered. Currently, there are 12 Red Cross shelters opened throughout the state, over 3,500 meals and snacks have been served. Forty-eight comfort kits and as many clean up kits have been distributed by Red Cross volunteers who are driving Emergency Response Vehicles through the affected neighborhoods. Additionally, there are over 200 Red Cross staff and volunteers providing assistance.


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