Volunteers from the Heartland Chapter of the American Red Cross are starting their second week of helping Alabama tornado victims by providing food, shelter and more. The chapter’s Danelle Schlegelmilch, from Omaha/Council Bluffs, arrived in Tuscaloosa shortly after the twister hit April 27th. She says signs of progress are coming slowly.
“We don’t really realize how many days have passed, everything is blending together,” Schlegelmilch says. “When you go out on the streets, things are starting to actually look a little better but the damage is so widespread.” The powerful storm system spun off dozens of tornadoes, killing more than 330 people in seven southern states. Most of the deaths were in Alabama. Noting the small victories, Schlegelmilch says any sign of improvement is a blessing.
“We finally got wired for Internet,” she says. “We have cell phone providers here letting people use phones. We have different groups donating things to try to get these people back in the loop.” Schlegelmilch says several hundred people are staying in the Red Cross shelter in Tuscaloosa and will be for quite some time. She says there are 19 volunteers from the Heartland Chapter in areas hit by tornadoes in Alabama and everyone is keeping very busy.
“They actually served 22,000 meals in Alabama and that’s only one state,” she says. “We have disasters going on in multiple states in the country right now.” Schlegelmilch says it’s a big plus to have computers and phones back online, as survivors are able to contact others to let them know they’re okay.
She says, “We went to having over 300 people missing in Tuscaloosa to, I think, we’re down to 30 and I think that’s partly because communication is coming back.” Cadaver dogs are being used in the search for the missing.
Some areas report trouble with looters, going through debris and carrying off everything from electronics to prescription medication. A few businesses are charging double for gasoline or hotel rooms, while con artists posing as construction crews are targeting the area, too.