Oklahoma tornadoes: Disaster relief efforts ongoing for tornado victims
Disaster relief efforts for victims of Tuesday's tornado outbreak ranged from tree debris removal to providing ice for families trying to keep their food from spoiling.
Rusty Surette, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma, said fewer than a dozen families stayed overnight Tuesday at each of the emergency shelters. He said the Red Cross partnered with churches and other organizations to open shelters in Piedmont, Stillwater, Chickasha, Newcastle and Canton. The Salvation Army opened a shelter at its Canadian County Distribution Center in El Reno.
Wednesday's disaster relief efforts focused mainly on providing meals and bottled water, Surette said. He said counselors were made available to offer emotional support.
The Red Cross held spontaneous volunteer training sessions Wednesday, then sent teams of volunteers out into neighborhoods to help assess the damage. Volunteers distributed hygiene kits, shovels and rakes to assist families as they sifted through the debris.
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Surette said the Red Cross relies solely on donations. The organization has been providing assistance to tornado victims in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., in addition to Oklahomans, so donations would be appreciated, he said.
Sam Porter, director of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, said his organization set up a kitchen at First Baptist Church of Piedmont, which is a Red Cross shelter.
Porter said meals for storm victims and disaster relief crews are being prepared at that site to serve victims in Washington, Blanchard, Newcastle, Goldsby, Piedmont and Oklahoma City. He said chain saw teams were working Wednesday in Joplin and across Oklahoma, helping with tree debris removal.
Leslie Johnson, director of the Salvation Army's Canadian County Service Center in El Reno, said the center provided shelter for one family Tuesday night and four families arrived Wednesday.
The service center provided ice donated by a local company to a family trying to keep food from spoiling.
Johnson said the Salvation Army is providing meals to victims at the service center, and its mobile unit is feeding victims and disaster relief personnel in a rural area of Calumet.
The Rev. Randy McCown, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Piedmont, said beds were set up at the church for families needing shelter and church volunteers anticipated fanning out into neighborhoods to help with cleanup efforts.
The Rev. Wendell Lang, senior pastor of Surrey Hills Baptist in Yukon, said his church is about four miles from the affected neighborhoods in Piedmont. The church served as a distribution center Wednesday to cut down on congestion in Piedmont, he said.
The Rev. Kim Hayes, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Chickasha, said his church offered shelter in partnership with the Red Cross. Many families were seeking clothing, so church volunteers set up a clothing distribution area in the gymnasium. He said Lowes donated bottled water and tarps.
Hayes said other churches in Chickasha also were aiding displaced families and disaster relief personnel.
“It's been amazing to see the outpouring,” he said.