- Special Sections
Even though Saturday's tornadoes were miles away from Catawba County, that didn't stop area American Red Cross volunteers and employees from making a trip to help victims.
David Garrison, administrator for readiness and response with Catawba Valley American Red Cross, arrived Sunday with two other Red Cross volunteers to help feed victims.
"We have a partnership with the North Carolina Baptist Men (organization)," Garrison said. "We buy the food, they prepare it, and we distribute it."
The food includes breakfast items, sandwiches for lunch and a larger meal for dinner, such as a spiral ham, he said.
"(The meals) are something that can be made easily and put into containers to be distributed," Garrison said.
Saturday's tornadoes in North Carolina struck one of the state's richest counties and a few of its poorest, leaving well-to-do professionals in the capital city and poor tobacco farmers down east scrambling for their lives.
In Garrison's five years working with Red Cross in disaster relief, he said this tornado caused the most damage he's seen.
"I have seen small (tornadoes) go through, but not one as wide (as Saturday's tornado)," he said, adding the damage was a mile wide at the tornado's largest point.
But days after the common experience, their lives again bear few similarities, according to Associated Press. Those with insurance and money are ready to rebound. And the people who were barely scraping by to begin with say they have no place to stay, no income and no easy future.
That's the case in Bertie County, where Garrison and his crew are stationed. Garrison is in "a small, rural community" right outside Colerain. He said a shelter was on standby for victims, but was not used.
"Most of the victims are staying with friends and family," Garrison said.
According to Associated Press, a quarter of Bertie County residents are below the poverty level.
The tornadoes claimed a 24th victim Wednesday when Colerain resident Mary Williams, 50, died from her injuries. She was in a Bertie County group home, where two others died in Saturday's storm. Bertie County suffered half of the state's reported deaths from the tornadoes.
Gov. Beverly Perdue on Wednesday thanked the White House for declaring 18 counties disaster areas, so they can get federal aid. Officials are still tallying the damage, but the latest figures show nearly 6,200 homes damaged and about 440 homes destroyed across North Carolina.
At least 92 businesses were damaged, with 21 destroyed. At least 2,000 people are out of work because of storm damage to their work places, Perdue said, although officials believe that estimate is expected to rise.
Perdue urged people to make donations â€” including clothes, canned goods, toiletries and toys â€” to help families harmed by the storm.
Perdue said this is the first time that she is aware of widespread damage to farms at the time when farmers plowed their fields and are beginning to plant. Hurricane damage usually occurs in late summer or early fall, when the crops have been harvested.
"This is the first time that North Carolina has had the experience of having to figure out how to rehabilitate fields that have just been plowed and planted," she said, adding that many farmers lack crop insurance. Perdue said she's asked for a separate, agriculture-related disaster declaration from the federal government.
The Saturday storms ranged across more than half the state, from near Winston-Salem to the Outer Banks. The National Weather Service identified 25 tornadoes that touched down across North Carolina. The event rivaled a March 1984 outbreak that produced 22 tornadoes, which was more powerful and killed twice as many people, but was largely confined to the Interstate 95 corridor.
Perdue said her administration is looking to waive classroom instruction requirements for some North Carolina schools that aren't holding classes because of storm damage. She also said the state will find the 25 percent monetary match that likely will be required of the state government to receive matching federal recovery dollars.
The storms caused about 340,000 outages.
To donate to the American Red Cross as it continues to help victims in Saturday's tornadoes, visit www.catawbavalleyarc.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
In the past two weeks the American Red Cross has:
Provided more than 1,400 overnight stays in about 35 shelters
Distributed more than 3,700 bulk items
Served more than 63,000 meals and snacks
Deployed more than 50 emergency response vehicles to affected communities
Recruited and deployed more than 1,000 American Red Crossers to support the operations in North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama