HENRICO COUNTY, Va. – Volunteers from Virginia are preparing to set off Monday for the Midwest to help in the aftermath of an outbreak of tornadoes that may have killed 100 people, according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.
"On the death count, we know that we're going to have at least four counties that are in double digits," Beshear said Sunday afternoon.
Kentucky was the worst-hit state by far in the unusual mid-December swarm of twisters across the Midwest and the South that left at least 14 people dead in four other states.
Red Cross Virginia’s Jonathan McNamara called the damage that leveled entire communities “chaotic and overwhelming.”
“Imagine standing outside your home, and seeing all of your memories, all of the materials and items that you need on a daily basis, brought down to the ground right in front of you,” McNamara said.
Red Cross Virginia is preparing to deploy six volunteers and three emergency response vehicles to hard-hit areas.
“They will go into those communities, deliver relief supplies, serve hot meals,” McNamara said.
Volunteer Ellen White inspected the agency's vehicles Sunday afternoon ahead of Monday’s mission.
“They got about an 11 hour drive to get to Kentucky, so I’m just going through the supply list and making sure everything’s there,” White explained.
The crucial necessities volunteers will take with them are housed in a Henrico warehouse.
"These pallets are prepackaged and labeled for all the supplies needed to establish a shelter," McNamara said.
The Red Cross not only meets physical needs, but also provides emotional support to those who are traumatized, according to McNamara.
“That's why all of our responders are trained in emotional and psychological first aid to be able to help deal with the mental health side of this,” McNamara said.
White encouraged others in Central Virginia to join her.
“We need you, we need everybody and it’s a rewarding job. Even though we don’t get paid, we get paid in other ways,” White said. “We have to pay it forward.”
McNamara said there are three ways folks can get involved:
- if volunteers are sent to the Midwest, they will likely need extra hands locally,
- you can give blood,
- and you can donate money.
More than $2 million has been donated to the Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, Beshear said. The governor said the fund is managed by the state, and all the money will go to support the victims and their families.