Catawba County aid and emergency workers are helping their Burke County neighbors who are homeless after tornadoes ripped through the Icard area Wednesday night.
Emergency officials estimate the severe weather affected more than 56 homes in Burke and Rutherford counties, including 18 homes that were completely destroyed and five that sustained major damages.
The National Weather Service's forecast office in Greer, S.C., said Thursday that investigators confirmed a tornado with winds of around 115 mph.
At least 10 people were hurt in the Ellenboro community of Rutherford County, with five injures reported in Burke County.
Gov. Bev Perdue toured both counties where the storms hit, and the American Red Cross declared the communities national disaster areas.
Catawba County sent two ambulances, quick-response emergency medical vehicles and emergency management staff to Burke County to assist in the aid and cleanup efforts after the storms hit.
Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County’s emergency management coordinator, was one of those personnel members.
“There was a lot of residential damage,” Yaussy said. “There were a lot of power lines down and trees down in the road, and obviously, the fact that the response was in the dark made it very difficult and dangerous.”
The storms, which hit about 6 p.m. Wednesday, bypassed much of Catawba County, and Yaussy said there were no reports of large-scale damages within the county.
“I think Catawba County came off very lucky last night,” Yaussy said on Thursday. “Certainly, our thoughts all morning long have been with Burke County. It was nice to be able to support them in their hour of need.”
The local chapter of the Red Cross opened a shelter for storm victims in Burke County on Wednesday night at First Baptist Church on U.S. 70 in Hickory. According to Red Cross officials, about 24 residents — including a 1-month-old baby — sought refuge in the shelter.
Volunteers at the shelter provided a warm, safe place to stay, as well as food and other emergency needs.
The Red Cross served 150 people breakfast Thursday morning, and at least 170 people were served lunch and snacks in the afternoon. There are about 35 Red Cross volunteers assisting in the effort.
The shelter will remain open as long as there is a need, said Suzan Anderson, executive director of the Catawba Valley chapter of the Red Cross.
“The people who have been affected didn’t have much before the storms,” Anderson said. “These people truly need the help of our community and the Red Cross.”
She said the Red Cross has finished its damage assessment and will begin individual client case work today. Right now is the best time for people to give donations, she said.
“They can be assured that any money they give will stay locally,” Anderson said. “At least 93 cents of every dollar will be used for direct client service.”
To help disaster victims, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.