Red Cross workers from chapters across Iowa are stationed along the East Coast, helping residents recover from the weekend hit by Hurricane Irene. Danelle Schlegelmilch, with the Heartland Chapter in Omaha/Council Bluffs, is deployed in Washington D.C. where thousands of residents have been overnighting in Red Cross shelters. She says the damage ranges from North Carolina to Maine.
“It is kind of mind-boggling to think about the number of people who were impacted,” Schlegelmilch says. “I heard a statistic there are close to 50 or 60-million people, and that would be about 15 to 18-percent of our population in the United States, all lived in that affected area.” Schlegelmilch says most people have no choice but to head to a shelter for the basics of life.
She says, “Here on the East Coast, there is literally nowhere else for people to go when things like this happen so they really depend on the Red Cross and our partner agencies to be there to be able to provide the essentials of comfort, care, food.” Schlegelmilch was sent to Washington D.C. last week to prepare for Hurricane Irene but she got a bonus, of sorts.
“Actually, I was deployed for the hurricane but ended up in an earthquake by accident,” she says. “It’s been one of those summers I couldn’t have ever predicted. I’ve worked three tornadoes, a flood, a hurricane and was in an earthquake, so it’s one for the books for sure.”
Many people remain stranded at airports with hundreds of fights canceled. It could be weeks before electricity is restored in some areas as four-million homes lost power in the storm. At least 40 people died in Irene in 14 states and territories. Flooding is now a big problem in Vermont, New York and elsewhere.
Schlegelmilch expects the Red Cross shelters will be open for some time as the region recovers. Damage may reach seven-billion dollars.