As skies clear, East Tennessee Red Cross volunteers still helping hurricane victims

(source: American Red Cross of East Tennessee)
(source: American Red Cross of East Tennessee)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WATE) – Volunteers with the Red Cross from East Tennessee are already helping those affected by the storm. They said while the storm has moved out much of their work is just beginning.

“You can’t get to the beach because the damage is so bad, but we saw a lot of trees, these huge oaks, ripped out by the roots that had fallen on houses or near houses. Power lines are down everywhere,” said Michelle Hankes.

Hankes is the executive director of the American Red Cross of East Tennessee, and she and several volunteers loaded up and headed out last week to get in place for incoming Hurricane Matthew. Some of them ended up in Charleston, South Carolina, waiting as the storm passed over.

“The hurricane has passed by us in South Carolina, and while damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been we do have power outages and we do expect flooding,” Hankes said.

They opened 34 shelters and housed 4,600 people, but now that the skies have cleared their work isn’t over.

More: Hurricane Matthew

“Cleaning out old shelters and moving them to where the residents need to be for work and for cleaning their houses,” Hankes said.

Getting to some places though is still not an option.

“It’s an adventure here trying to move a lot of stuff fast so we can continue to serve people. And now we’re also looking at how to get these trucks on the road, make sure those roads are passable to feed people,” Hankes said.

The group says there is no telling how long they will be there, but they are glad to have the chance to help.

“I did do a lot of talking with residents to check how they are, what’s going on. They’re in very high spirit. They’re very resilient, but they know that there’s going to be a lot of cleaning up to do,” Hankes said.

If you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross of East Tennessee, they are holding three training sessions this week starting Tuesday from 8:30 to 5:00.

They will also have sessions Wednesday from 6:00 to 8:00 and Thursday from 6:00 to 9:00.

Volunteers only need to attend one of the sessions, and must complete the application process, including a background check, and be able to commit to a two-week assignment. For more information, contact the Red Cross at (865)584-2999.

Related: Kroger accepts donations for Hurricane Matthew disaster relief

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