American Red Cross Serves East Texas Tornado Victims

by Erin Duncan , volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

After a series of severe tornadoes swept through East Texas April 29, many members of the community are still reeling from the physical and emotional damage inflicted by the storms. Four people were killed, dozens were injured and hundreds of properties were damaged. The counties affected were Van Zandt, Rains, Henderson, Smith, Hopkins and Wood.

The American Red Cross help set up a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) in the city of Canton, Texas, to help those affected by the severe weather. At the MARC, the American Red Cross is one of many agencies providing assistance in the form of food, water, basic household items, clothing, medical support and mental health services.

Sharon Sanders, a casework supervisor from the Red Cross Texoma chapter, was on the ground assisting families in need. As a caseworker, she helps these families with funds and referrals to health services or other agencies. In the wake of the storms, Sharon is lending a hand by “listening to stories and caring for those in need.”

One of the families Sharon has worked with since the storm is the Norrell family. Stacey Norrell came into the MARC to find assistance for her parents David and Elaine Norrell. The night the tornado hit, Stacey’s parents were at their home in Canton. They took shelter in the hallway of their home where they held each other in an embrace as their home was destroyed around them. David and Elaine were swept up and carried nearly 100 feet into the surrounding pastures where they were miraculously still holding onto one another when they landed on the ground. After receiving help from neighbors, both David and Elaine were admitted into the hospital with minor injuries.

Canton Devastation1

Stacey says both of her parents are in “good spirits,” despite having their home completely destroyed. There was little salvageable on the property, but Stacey has been working closely with the Red Cross to receive help in the form of food gift cards, household items and a property inspection for her parents. Stacey’s mother-in-law Vivian Hale said she was “eternally grateful” that everyone in the family was okay and for the help they’ve received from the community.

Aside from property damage, many families have reached out to the Red Cross to help with other needs. Heather Pierce visited the MARC with her mother to receive medical assistance. During the storm, Heather had to take shelter at her church’s bathroom with her husband and kids. After the storm cleared, the family tried to go check on Heather’s mother and father, but the path to her parents’ house was obstructed. Heather had to borrow boots from a first responder to trek over a mile to get to the house.

Once she arrived at the property, it was clear that their home had been in the middle of the storm as it has been completely leveled. Heather eventually located her mother at a neighbor’s house where she had crawled to shelter. She was able to find transportation for her mom to a hospital in Tyler where she received treatment for a broken ankle, head injury and physical trauma. Later that day, Heather received the tragic news that her father had passed away due to the storm.

Since that day, the Pierce family has been working with the American Red Cross to ensure that their property is cleared, they have basic household necessities and Heather’s mother receives proper medical attention. While nothing can ease the pain of losing a loved one, the Red Cross is there to alleviate any stress they can during such a difficult time.

Although a lot of work has been done in the area to help the community, there is still a lot that needs to be done to help those affected. To help support those who have lost so much please sign-up to volunteer or make a financial donation to disaster relief by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or pledging online.

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