What we’re reading – storms

We really enjoyed Steve Lyttle’s blog about the March 3 tornado (courtesy of the Charlotte Observer):

How strong was the tornado? Or more specifically, was it really stronger than an EF2.

Granted, to the people who lost their homes or had them heavily damaged, it seems trifling to quibble over the strength of the tornado. This is a scientific issue, but an EF3 rating would have been interesting, because since 1950 — the start of the data base kept by NOAA — there has not been a tornado stronger than an EF2 recorded in Mecklenburg County.

Also from the Charlotte Observer, a good piece on the biggest weather threat in Charlotte:

“More people have died in Charlotte floods over the last 20 years than from tornadoes and lightning combined,” said Dave Canaan, director of the county staff for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services.


Disaster Diaries Part Five: The faces of the West Virginia floods

American Red Cross volunteers and staff have been working to distribute cleaning supplies, food and water to those affected by the floods. Jim Sheely, a volunteer from Charlotte, N.C., describes his deployment and the Red Cross’ efforts in West Virginia in part three of his disaster diaries:

    Monday, July 5

    Well, this operation officially concluded Saturday, July 3. I’ll be home soon and looking forward to it.

    The long, long Fourth of July weekend has kept George Barron, the Logistics Administrator, and Lance and I here for two days longer than ordinarily.  Everything was closed Sunday and today so we will spend tomorrow morning, Tuesday, delivering a huge load of Pelican cases of DST laptops, cell phones, cables, and the satellite dish to FedEx shipping. Then we have to deliver the Chapter a load of leftover office supplies, forms, brochures, snacks, ice chests, and all the other “stuff” that winds up in headquarters after 2 and a half weeks of operations.  Then, after we return the two trucks, I can “beat feet” to the airport, return my car and hop my flight to Atlanta.

    I have been here 18 days and have not seen a victim of the flooding, a home damaged by floods, or been in any of the affected communities. Other volunteers carried the Red Cross “flag” in all those areas. Those were the faces the clients saw and will remember; those are the volunteers that make or break the Red Cross’ reputation in disasters. But we (volunteers in Logistics) gave the volunteers their offices, shelters, cars, computers, phones, clean-up kits, comfort kits, clipboards, snacks, soap, toilet paper, and everything else they needed and assume will be there when they arrive on the job. Logistics arrives first and, as I can verify, leaves last. I feel like a fraud when I tell people I’ve been in West Virginia helping people who lost homes and property in floods.  But I will come home and gladly preach the gospel of Logistics to the “empathy impaired” and let them know that none of the other activities can get their work done without Logistics doing theirs first. The glamour is missing but not the importance.

    George and I had little to do today except fold tables and chairs so we sat a talked a while.  I got more insights into the ‘bigger picture’ and how he finds and acquires the facilities a relief operation needs.  There have been a lot of changes made at the national level in the last few weeks and we in the “Man Cave” will have a lot to learn and talk about. I look forward to being rid of Disaster Services Technology and Invoice Review, and handing over the Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) to fellow volunteer Pam Brynarsky. Speaking of ECRVs: The last word I had on 4703, the Manassas truck, is that they found the money and the justification to have it repaired and returned to service. I’ll bet that takes at least a month to accomplish.  I was worried that they’d replace 4703 with our truck, 4715, to have a showpiece for HQ events. I think we may have dodged a bullet!

    See ya’ll when I get back!


Disaster Diaries Part Four: Winding down

Wednesday, June 30

Hot Flash from DR 112-10:

The Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) 4703, based in Manassas, Va., and the oldest of the ECRVs, is to be scrapped after it is stripped of its equipment. The mechanical diagnosis is that it needs a new engine and transmission and it has been decided that the investment would not be cost effective. A team will be dispatched to Chapmanville in a box truck with the tools to remove all the radios, dish, mast, consoles, etc and then sell the body for parts or junk. This unexpected loss might mean more activity for the Charlotte ECRV. Updates as they occur…

We are in wind-down mode here in South Charleston headquarters. We are sending caseworkers home daily. Yesterday we picked up 47 cots, of 75 delivered, at the staff shelter at Logan High School. Today we got about 18 more. They expect to close by Friday when we will go back and clear out everything that’s left.

We picked up and returned to US Food in Hurricane, W.Va., about 1,200 pounds of canned food items that the kitchen won’t need.  The kitchen is closing after they cook lunch for the ERVs to deliver tomorrow (Thursday).  Hopefully the facility can be inspected tomorrow afternoon and officially closed.  A staff of about 8 volunteers prepared, and the ERVs delivered, about 1,100 meals a day for 13 days from a 16’x16’ kitchen in a small Baptist Church.  The ERVs look like they have been mud racing.

Headquarters will effectively close Saturday.  MSS and DST will remain to wrap up bill paying and accounting for all the non-expendable “stuff” we have borrowed or bought.  The rented tables, chairs, and copier will be retrieved by vendors on Monday.  DST has to wait until we are finished with the laptops before they can disassemble the VSAT (satellite dish) and pack it for shipping.  They will use the box truck it is sitting on top of to carry all their boxes of equipment to FedEx for shipment to the Austin, TX, Disaster Services Center.

Word is, I will be released on Tuesday or Wednesday.  It seems that Fourth of July is an especially big holiday here and everything but the Kanawah River shuts down for a looong weekend.  I’ve heard it referred to as a ‘miner’s holiday” but I don’t know what that implies.  AND, the President, VP, and entourage will come to town Friday for Sen. Byrd’s State Funeral.  I haven’t heard if we will get any time off or not over the weekend.  It isn’t clear what we can accomplish but everyone wants to finish up as quickly as we can.

Disaster Diaries Part Three

American Red Cross volunteers and staff have been working to distribute cleaning supplies, food and water to those affected by the floods. Jim Sheely, a volunteer from Charlotte, N.C., describes his deployment and the Red Cross’ efforts in West Virginia in part three of his disaster diaries:

    Saturday, June 26

    “Hello” from Wild, Wonderful West Virginia,

    There was a tornado in Weston, W.Va., Thursday evening, and that disaster has been added to our operation. My co-worker, Lance Bennink, from Athens, Ohio, drove a truck loaded with cleanup supplies up there on Friday.  Weston is on I-79 about 1½ hours from here.  I haven’t heard if we’ll send caseworkers or anyone else up there. We’re still getting caseworkers reporting in, and I think we’re still doing casework. 

    Today was a slow day but didn’t end until about 6 p.m. Right now I’m watching Carolina vs. Clemson in the College World Series playoffs. Tied 1-1 bottom of the 3rd.

    Carolina won 4-3 and will play UCLA Monday in the best-of-3 finals.

    Monday, June 28

    Slow days Sunday and today. We are still doing casework and feeding, but one of the three Emergency Response Vehicles went home today and another went into the shop for a leaky transmission.  Two or three caseworkers went home today and more will leave tomorrow.  They are to wrap up by Thursday and we will then clean, clear and close the Staff Shelter at the high school Friday. If all goes by plan, I may travel home around July 7.  We (Logistics volunteers) will be the last ones out.

    The Logistics Administrator here is George Barron from Huntsville, Ala. George joined the Army the year after I was born and retired 24 years later after spending much of his later years in logistics and facilities. He’s brought that experience to Red Cross disaster, and I’ve learned a lot from him in a short time.  I hope I get to work with him again. 

    West Virginia has flags at half-staff in honor of Senator Byrd, and I suppose they will place his body in the State Capitol and follow with a big funeral.  Probably declare a state holiday, too.  I don’t know yet if we’ll work on the Fourth.  It might depend on what we can get done if everyone else is closed up.  I’d rather work if it’ll get us home a day earlier.


Disaster Diaries Part Two: On the Ground in West Virginia

American Red Cross volunteers and staff have been working to distribute cleaning supplies, food and water to those affected by the floods. Jim Sheely, a volunteer from Charlotte, N.C., describes his deployment and the Red Cross’ efforts in West Virginia in part two of his disaster diaries:

    I’m sitting in a Bob Evans restaurant having dinner and getting a lesson in West Virginia culture. Up here, chicken and dumplings on a mound of mashed potatoes seems to be a real favorite. Not much fried chicken to be found, though. I’ll be making a pilgrimage to the Chicken Coop soon after I get home.

    Headquarters is still busy. Another group of caseworkers is coming in. A staff shelter is being opened because the few hotel accommodations the Red Cross has in Logan have to be vacated due to prior reservations. The staff shelter will be in the local High School gym and will house caseworkers, ERV crews and kitchen staff. They are using other areas of the school for a client casework service center.  My last job today was to load 75 cots and blankets at the Chapter, pillows from Wal-Mart and towels from Sam’s Club. They will be delivered and the shelter set up tomorrow morning by my coworkers. 

    The week has flown by.

    We made two trips to Logan on Wednesday: the first to deliver bleach, trash bags, paper towels, insect repellent, hand sanitizer and flashlights for distribution to clients, and the second, to deliver six pallets of food to the kitchen.  While we were unloading the food, another team was unloading 750 cleanup kits (approximately 23 pallet loads).  Those cleanup kits and a pallet of comfort kits were loaded the night before at the Charlotte, N.C., Disaster Field Supply Center by fellow volunteers Berkley Godehn, Davey Crockett, and Jim Cunningham.  Because of a trailer snafu they had to work late into the evening and loaded a total of 30 pallets on the trailer. The usual load capacity is 28 pallets so they obviously did a remarkable job. Some of the cleanup kits were dropped in Bluefield before the remainder came here. It’s unusually rewarding to know where our local supplies are ending up.

    The Manassas Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV) blew its engine today and will be in the shop for several days.  The Ford dealership nearest Logan is 20 miles away and their diesel mechanic is on vacation until Monday. The Manassas ECRV crew will be replaced this weekend but won’t be needed much for the time being.  I took a van to Logan to bring all their ECRV equipment boxes back to headquarters for safekeeping since we have a security guard here at night.


Red Cross volunteer helping relief efforts in West Virginia

More than a thousand homes have been affected by flooding in Southern West Virginia.


American Red Cross volunteers and staff have been working to distribute cleaning supplies, food and water to those affected by the floods. Jim Sheely, a volunteer from Charlotte, N.C., describes his deployment and the Red Cross’ efforts in West Virginia:

    I’m deployed here in South Charleston, W.Va., for floods that occurred about two weeks ago. I am assigned to the DR112-10 Headquarters as a Logistics Supervisor (Generalist). That means I do everything from emptying the trash to buying “stuff” and renting cars and trucks.

    The areas affected by the flooding are in the vicinity of Beckley, Logan and Welch. Logan is 50 miles south of headquarters, Beckley about two hours away, and Welch is about … well, you can’t get to Welch from here. All the communities are in coal mining areas and the flooding is blamed by the locals on silt washing down from strip mining and filling the traditional waterways. When there is a heavy rain, the runoff finds new places to escape that aren’t friendly to the residents of the off-the-road-spots where people have always lived. The number of people affected jumps around as new populations, who were cut off by washouts, are discovered by our Red Cross Disaster Assessment workers. There is a field kitchen from the Red Cross Charleston Chapter operating at a Baptist church in Logan, and three or four Emergency Response Vehicles are doing mobile feeding. The feeding and sheltering numbers are unusually high because of the scarcity of alternative lodging and restaurants in the communities.

    The Manassas Emergency Communications Response Vehicle opened the headquarters and then moved down to Verdunville, near Logan, yesterday to support Client Services. Bulk Distribution is in full swing giving out cleanup kits, trash bags, bleach, etc. They are distributing these supplies at at a fixed site, but volunteers are driving four-wheel ATVs distributing supplies where they are needed.

    Most of us at headquarters are sleeping at a motel. It isn’t the Ritz, but it’s clean and cheap and convenient to restaurants. I miss home and family but it’s good to feel like I’m making a difference – that’s why I volunteered.