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: 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

June 30, 2012

June 2012 TS Debby

June 2012 TS Debby

June 2012 TS Debby

Photos: Northland Flooding, MN

June 29, 2012

2012 Northland Flood

2012 Northland Flood 2012 Northland Flood 2012 Northland Flood

See entire “2012 Northland Flood” set by Twin Cities Red Cross on Flickr >>

Story: Duluth, MN Floods

June 29, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross worker Harry Walker.

Northland Floods, MN

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 20, 2012, a severe storm struck the Duluth Minnesota and surrounding areas. Rain fell at about one inch per hour for ten hours washing away streets, bridges and flooding homes. By 3 a.m. law enforcement officers were going door to door alerting residents of the likely hood of flooding and advising residents to evacuate immediately. At that time water was approximately ankle deep high in the street.

Nick & Nicole Hanninen of 37 Dalles Ave., Thomson, Minnesota answered their door to find water coming into their home and decided they would leave immediately. Nicole, having just given birth to a third child just six weeks before this, started getting the kids ready to leave while Nick collected personal items they would need to take with them. Kevin, 4 years old and Ashlen 2 years old, didn’t want to wake up but Nicole was gentle and insistent. The family made their way to the car and by now the water had risen to about ankle level inside the house. They drove the seven miles to Nicole’s father’s house and have been there since; (7 days to date).

During a break in the rains, they tried to come back home and were shocked to see that the bridge they crossed to leave the tiny community of 180 was now 5 feet underwater. The police had the road blocked and no one was allowed to go in. However, the American Red Cross left instructions at the roadblock instructing everyone where to go to get assistance and shelter. Within an hour of the levy breaking at 3:30 a.m., the Red Cross had a shelter open at the Carlton High school in Carlton, Minn. “We didn’t need any assistance at that time but have since decided to call and see what was available as we have damage to our home on the first floor and garage with no insurance. We are waiting for someone from the Red Cross to return our call but we understand they are extremely busy and we are staying with my parents so we are not in need of anything immediately” said Nicole.

“The floods happened very quickly and we were very grateful the policeman woke us up” said Nick. “When the rains stopped, the water went down very fast. We got back to our home in just a couple days and couldn’t believe the destruction we saw. The police had the roads blocked and no one could get in or out”. Nick continued to say, “The Red Cross has been making two trips a day, everyday, to make sure we all have water and food. They are continuously asking about our needs and we are grateful for their concern”. The Red Cross has been invaluable to this community according to Nick and Nicole.

Just like everyone else in this community, the Hanninen family now faces the job of rebuilding their lives. They have been coming from her parent’s house everyday cleaning and tearing out carpet and walls. With three very small children, they are lucky that Nicole’s father John Vernon is available to help with the work and also watch the kids.

On Monday, June 26, Public Affairs volunteer Harry Walker walked the neighborhood on foot and talked with several residents. Everyone was extremely complimentary of the Red Cross. Not one person had a negative thing to say about the services or the speed in which the services have been delivered. As far as this community is concerned, the Red Cross could not have responded any better than it did.

Press Release: Red Cross Begins One-on-One Client Casework in Aftermath Northland Flood

June 26, 2012

Red Cross Begins One-on-One Client Casework in Aftermath Northland Flood

DULUTH, Minn (June 26, 2012) – The American Red Cross will be closing its shelter at 802 E. Central Entrance in Duluth at noon today, and remains ready to open more shelter space if the need arises. As the shelter operations wind down, the Red Cross one-on-one casework begins, with volunteers ready to evaluate and help meet the needs of those affected by the Northland flooding last week. Residents affected by the floods who would like assistance from the Red Cross should call the Northland Chapter at 218-722-0071.

“Red Cross relief is based on disaster-related needs and typically includes things like food, clothing, bedding, medicine and medical supplies for those who qualify,” said Northland Chapter Executive Director Judy Hanne Gonzalez. “Our hearts go out to all those affected by the devastating floods and the Red Cross is here to help people get back on the road to recovery.” Trained Red Cross mental health counselors and nurses are also available.

The Red Cross will continue to provide meals jointly with the Salvation Army to the Fond du Lac neighborhood this week. Three Emergency Response Vehicles will continue to hand out snacks, drinks and clean-up kits to residents and volunteers working on clean-up efforts in the area. Clean up kits can also be picked up at the Northland Chapter of the Red Cross at 2524 Maple Grove Road, Duluth.

Photos: Northland, MN Flooding

June 26, 2012

2012 Northland Flood

2012 Northland Flood 2012 Northland Flood 2012 Northland Flood

See entire “2012 Northland Flood” set by Twin Cities Red Cross on Flickr >>


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