By Melanie Bowyer
Development manager, Santa Cruz County Chapter American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is coming to the aid of people across the South as powerful tornadoes continue to tear through the region, destroying homes, closing highways, causing power outages and forcing people to evacuate from their neighborhoods.
Santa Cruz County Chapter disaster volunteer Janet Packer, an Aptos resident, is being deployed Wednesday to assist in tornado relief efforts in Mississippi.
Packer has been volunteering with the American Red Cross since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has been deployed to help in 10 disasters. She has recently been working tirelessly to help the residents of the Capitola flooding.
"Damage is widespread here," said Michael Spencer, Red Cross spokesman, who is on the scene in northwest Arkansas near the Oklahoma border.
He said people are missing, and local officials are conducting search-and-rescue efforts. He described seeing a car that went through a mobile home, trees through homes.
"We'll be out today helping people and determining the extent of the damage in this area," Spencer said.
In Mississippi, preliminary reports show more than 300 homes have been destroyed or received major damage. More than 90 disaster workers and Red Cross partners have already served 5,800 meals and snacks.
"Red Cross volunteers are right behind the storms, rushing aid to disaster victims," Spencer said. "Deadly tornadoes hit this same area a few months ago. It's very important people take precautions ahead of these storms and be ready to go to their safe spot."
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization—not a government agency—and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit sccredcross.org