CROSSVILLE (WATE) – Tennessee remains under a level two state of emergency. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency confirms 30 weather related deaths including 12 people from East Tennessee.
Cumberland County is at the heart of the state of emergency for good reason. The storms took down power lines and blocked roads, creating a lot of dangerous conditions.
Almost 30,000 people were without power at one point. That number is now down to just over 9,000 people waiting for electricity to be restored to their homes.
After touring the damage Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam met Wednesday with more people in the Lake Tansi area. The state is applying for a federal disaster declaration, and needs to show nearly $9 million in damage across the state, $200,000 of which in Cumberland County. The federal government would then shoulder 75 percent of the damage costs across our state.
Previous story: Gov. Haslam tours winter weather damage in Cumberland County
The Red Cross has been working to help people in Cumberland County since this month’s winter weather began. The shelter opened at Cumberland Fellowship Church Saturday morning and slept 189 people that first night. One hundred and four of them were still there Tuesday night.
Many of them probably don’t know their shelter manager used to be the chef on Air Force One.
Former Air Force One chef helping at Red Cross shelter in Crossville
Doug Scarlett is in his 50th year with the Red Cross. He’s traveled all over. His last big assignment was Hurricane Sandy on the east coast in 2012.
“I was the first kitchen there. We feed an average of 41,000 people a day from that one kitchen,” he said.
Scarlett is a volunteer. His business is cooking, and he’s got quite a resume.
“President Johnson got me involved in it. I was his chef on Air Force One, his and Nixon’s. He asked me, ‘What do you do when you’re not flying?’ I said, ‘Sir I’m bored.’ He said, ‘Go get involved in something like the Red Cross.'”
That’s why he started, but why does he stay?
“The smiles on people’s faces, taking care of them so they can get back to their life,” he siad.
Scarlett lives in Cumberland County, and says this is the worst he’s ever seen it here.
“This county got hit bad. It’s a disaster. We haven’t had a disaster like this since, in fact it’s worse than the ice storm of ’99,” said Scarlett.
Sometimes, disasters bring out the best in people.
“This whole community is something. They got together. You wouldn’t find this in a big city.”
The Red Cross shelter will stay open as long as it’s needed, until everyone here has a warm, safe place to go home to.
Family who survived Hurricane Katrina stay at shelter during Crossville winter weather
Lia Young, 15, and her parents came to the Red Cross shelter Sunday evening.
“It was great. Everybody just welcomed us in. We had great meals, great showers, everything was great. The people were awesome, very generous,” said Young.
Before they went there, they spent Saturday night at home, without power.
“I think it got down to 29 degrees. It was freezing. I didn’t sleep at all. No heat, no water, no nothing,” Young said.
This is actually her second time staying in a Red Cross shelter, though she was almost too young to remember.
“When we lived in Florida, we were in Hurricane Katrina,” she said.
They stayed in the shelter for two weeks, then moved to Tennessee. Still, she’s not upset to be in the middle of another disaster.
“It kind of brought Crossville closer together to help each other out.”
She’s glad the Red Cross was here.
“We probably would have had to stay home and rough it out because we don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Young.
Right after her interview with WATE 6 On Your Side, Young and her family learned their power was back on and they could return home.
Volunteers, church staff help at the shelter
Church volunteers have been serving three hot meals a day in Cumberland County, provided by the Cumberland Good Samaritans.
The teen center of Cumberland Fellowship Church is where they’re storing all their donated emergency supplies.
Cumberland Fellowship wasn’t a designated Red Cross shelter, until Saturday morning when everyone in the county lost power and they still had lights and heat.
“The assistant fire chief called and 30 minutes after that, we welcomed the first person into the shelter,” said Rev. Hank Jones.
They’ve received donations from lots of individuals and businesses.
“We’ve just had a great group of people come together for the largest disaster Cumberland County had ever seen,” said Rev. Jones.
Church staff and volunteers have been working overtime.
“Since Saturday, I’ve come every morning and stayed until 11 o’clock at night.” said Samantha Donathan.
Staff and church members are doing everything from serving food to sorting donations and more.
“I’ve helped some of our elderly needing food or just talking to them because they haven’t had anyone and they been in their cold houses all alone,” said church member Cole VanHorn.
Church members say they couldn’t do it with out the Red Cross and lots of community support.
“A disaster happens and you see how great people are. Every 30 minutes, someone is coming and asking what they can bring or what they can do,” VanHorn said.
The Red Cross shelter is moving to Crossville First United Methodist Church Friday morning, so Cumberland Fellowship can hold their normal Sunday services.
How to help the Red Cross
The shelter manger is hoping most people will be able to go home by then, but they’ll stay open as long as they’re needed.
With all those people staying in shelters during this long stretch of winter weather, the Red Cross is struggling to meet the demand for help.
The Red Cross also provides comfort kits to each person coming into the shelter, with soap, shampoo and toothpaste, among other things.
I you would like to lend a hand to the Red Cross, all you have to do is text the word REDCROSS to 90999, which will make an automatic $10 donation that’s added to your phone bill.
It’s not just money that helps. The Red Cross also says they’re in need of blankets and comfort care kits.