Day 4 of the Joplin Tornado Relief Effort
SEMO Health Network CEO Cheryl White brought supplies, a generator, and staff and they whipped us into shape for disaster outreach. Cheryl has had lots of experience with this in managing disasters from tornados and floods. They gave our staff some guidance, suggestions, and resource contacts so we cold put together an outreach to the disaster victims. They were a tremendous blessing to us.
The day began sunny and promising. We needed relief from the incessant rain, but even with that there was on all of us the heaviness of the prediction of another powerful storm coming later. We heard the warnings all day to get things done because another one was coming. The city tested the tornado sirens while it was sunny in preparation for the night storms and found a couple systems that didn’t work. They got one fixed and planned to resort to police making loud-speaker warnings if needed.
Senators Blunt and McCaskill and Congressman Long all visited the EOC midday and I had opportunity to greet and visit with each of them. Congressman Long told me the view on the ground is bad, but it’s overwhelming from a helicopter. Senator Blunt asked several questions of me. These elected officials are deeply concerned and engaged in the efforts and for the need in Joplin.
Staff spent the remainder of the day preparing care bags with personnel hygiene items for distribution the next day and serving patients as they came in. Everyone has a tornado story because they were either directly affected or were close to someone who was affected.
We received news that the Missouri Foundation for Health was sending a check for $25,000 for relief efforts. Staff worked on plans to distribute the care packs and purchased dogs and burgers to grill for victims and rescue workers.
Bad news came later in the day when the fatality number was raised to 122 and by the time they announced it at the press conference, it had risen a few more. They announced over 400 were injured. It’s amazing that the numbers aren’t higher, thankfully. The tornado rating was raised from EF4 to EF5, the highest, after examination of the destruction disclosed evidence of winds of over 200 mph. One rumor that I heard from two distinct sources estimates the missing at 1,500. Most of those are probably with family or friends, we hope.
Good news came in the announcement that more survivors were uncovered in the Home Depot debris. That was a huge encouragement to the rescue workers.
With help from MPCA, we’ve established an account for donations called the Joplin Tornado Relief Fund to benefit our patients and staff who were affected by the disaster. We have displaced employees and one is a single mom of seven children. She’s staying at the mass shelter at MSSU and is in contact with my assistant Joy. I hope to get over to MSSU today to talk to her.
Information about the fund and how to contribute is on the MPCA homepage at www.mo-pca.org and on our homepage at www.accessfamilycare.org We also have my updates placed there in case anyone wants to refer anyone to them, tweet, Facebook or email them.
I have to take some space here and really honor our COO, Dr. Debra Davidson. She has been an integral part of the EOC during all of this starting Sunday night when the tornado hit. She and an employee from St. John’s have been coordinating care via walkie-talkies during all of this. Whenever I’m there I’m continually impressed with what she is doing and the whole well-organized EOC effort.
I noticed cell phone usage was improved yesterday. That’s a blessing.
We are seeing an increase in puncture wounds at the clinic due to clean up and people sifting for personal belongings. We are providing lots of tetanus shots.
Tuesday night is normally our extended-hours night, but with the approaching storm we shut down just after 5:00 to give staff a chance to get home to their families. Nervousness was high as we heard of the destruction near El Reno, Oklahoma before we left the clinic. Last night, several funnels were sited in and around Joplin. Joplin sirens sounded a couple of times. I can only imagine how that affected everyone, but the storm blew past us—definite answer to prayer. Everyone has been running on limited sleep and another crazy night of disrupted sleep was the last thing everyone needed.
There is a lot more rain in the forecast. That will hinder search and rescue efforts and efforts to bring food and supplies to the tornado victims—an extra challenge to overcome.
Water pressure challenges have plagued the efforts in Joplin. Because so many lines are exposed and water is escaping, the pressure is down and the whole city is on a boil alert. Fire pumper trucks are bringing water to Freeman Hospital.
We met with Convoy of Hope who are here to bring relief. This is an outstanding organization using almost all trained volunteers. We learned that MSSU has stopped receiving clothing donations being overwhelmed by that. There are more volunteers than things to do, and they recommend that folks wanting to volunteer who live more than an hour’s distance should remain home for now. This will be a long term recovery effort and help later will be needed.
Many churches have opened their doors as shelters and they are taking care of folks. It’s been awesome.
I want to thank everyone for their encouraging words and offers of support. MPCA CEO Joe Pierle stated he felt frustrated with wanting to help more and I think most people are feeling that. There is just something in our American DNA that urges us to respond, help, and make a difference. These are the times when you are proud to be an American, where it doesn’t matter what “religion” you are or to what political party you belong—you are here to help make a difference. Thanks.