By Julie Thomas, Executive Director, Red Cross Santa Monica Bay Chapter
In late June of this year, I deployed to the American Red Cross Missouri/Arkansas Region as an Elected Official Liaison.
As the title suggests, the work involves liaising with elected officials in order to enlist their support in the response and keep them in the loop with our progress. Their knowledge and understanding of the communities they represent offers valuable insight and is important to assessing the needs so that we can provide the appropriate resources.
Upon arriving, I learned that this region had been in Disaster Response Operation (DRO) mode since March after two tornadoes touched down in Jefferson City.
Over the next few months, these two tornadoes were followed by hundreds more to create devastation and destruction across many states in the Midwest.
Then, in April, torrential rainstorms drenched the region with such force that by the end of May three major rivers that crisscrossed the region overflowed their banks. The floods inundated entire communities until the landscape was unrecognizable.
To offer some perspective on my deployment, Brad Kieserman, Red Cross Vice President of Disaster Operations and Logistics, described the scene in perfect detail:
“On Monday night [May 27, 2019], a large tornado struck Dayton, Ohio and caused significant damage there as well as in the surrounding communities.
Several other powerful twisters were reported in Ohio and also, Indiana.
We responded immediately by opening DR 024-19, a Level 4 operation with six shelters and more than 130 shelter residents. An estimated 540 homes were either destroyed or had sustained major damage and more than 140 Red Crossers were assigned to provide assistance.
Then, on Tuesday night, a massive and incredibly destructive tornado with winds up to 170 MPH cut a mile-wide swath, 31-miles long, through the tiny community of Linwood, Kansas, population 400, located just 30 miles from Kansas City.
This tornado blew homes from their foundations and ripped others to shreds. We opened DR 022-19 to respond.”
This is just a snapshot of the devastation these back–to–back disasters caused.
As my two–week deployment came to a close, the team remained in full force disaster mode as it continued to be involved in the processes of conducting Disaster Assessments and planning Mobile Assistance and Resource Centers (MARCs).
On the day I left, a 15th DRO was opening in response to a wind event in Arkansas.
Shortly after I returned home to Southern California, two back-to-back earthquakes, a magnitude 6.9 and a magnitude 7.1, rocked the area. At the epicenter were the cities of Ridgecrest and Trona.
Combined, the events of 2019 seem almost apocalyptic compared to those I’ve seen in previous years. It was a stark reminder of the power of Mother Nature, not to mention her tenacity.
Will there ever be another year like 2019? Sadly, we have no reason to think otherwise.
Through it all though, I have peace of mind knowing one fact: No matter what, the Red Cross will be there.