East Tennesseans show their volunteer spirit in Irene's wake

By: Kate Burgess Email
By: Kate Burgess Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)--The Knoxville chapter of the American Red Cross is sending volunteers to Hurricane Irene damaged areas. Flood victims and people without power are the organization's main concerns.

Director of Disaster Services Mary Beth Birge said, "There's just no place to go, when the waters are still high you have to wait until the waters recede and go down, before you can go in and clean up."

As people from South Carolina to Vermont wait for flood waters to recede, the Red Cross mobilizes.

"Our primary request right now is sheltering and providing food to victims of the disaster," Birge said.

A disaster that left dangerous flood waters, widespread power outages, and billions of dollars of destruction in its wake.

"Uncertainty is high, so we need to get a feeling for how many homes are impacted, how many houses are lost, before we know how many supplies we need to send into an area," she added.

15 local volunteers are already along the east coast. We spoke to Blount County Red Cross volunteer Peter O'Neill, as he surveyed the damage in New York.

"There are areas that are just underwater because of all the streams, like the Little River up in Townsend, they've all overflowed. It's a flood situation that I'm dealing with," he said.

Right now O'Neill is watching the flooding in Westchester, processing the constant stream of incoming volunteers, and preparing to be there awhile.

"We'll be here until the job is done. Whatever we have to do, the Red Cross will be here doing it until it's done," he said.

The Red Cross is sending 5 more local volunteers to Raleigh, North Carolina Tuesday morning to manage disaster relief centers there.


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