KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Northeast Tennessee volunteers with the American Red Cross have made it to the West Coast, where they will offer help to Californians after flooding left many there with nothing.
Volunteers Thomas Fortney and Theresa Nelson arrived in Northern California Thursday night. While there, they will work in an emergency shelter providing Californians who were forced to evacuate with a safe place to receive care.
The devastating floods are a result of heavy rain and snow that has been falling since December. Winds described by the Red Cross as “hurricane-like” have also continued to pound the state as part of the 12th “atmospheric river” to befall California in recent months.
“California has been hit with back-to-back storms nonstop since December,” said Heather Carbajal, the executive director of the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee. “We’re seeing storms on average every six and a half days in the state.”
The Red Cross reported on Thursday that more than 130,000 customers in the state are without power and mountainous regions are seeing as much as four feet of new snow in some communities that were already submerged.
According to Carbajal, both Fortney and Nelson hail from Washington County, Tennessee. Their work at the shelter will include a multitude of tasks, ensuring the physical and spiritual well-being of victims.
“So their job is to make sure that people are safe, that they have access to a warm shower or a hot meal,” Carbajal said. “Medical and mental health support, and really just making sure that they have somewhere safe to go as they’re evacuated from their homes.”
Carbajal said a typical disaster response commitment for volunteers is two weeks, but that time period can be extended. Fortney and Nelson are among the more than 1,500 trained disaster workers that have been deployed to California since December.
“It has just been relentless, and I’m so thankful for our supporters, whether it’s our volunteers or our donors who are making our relief work possible for so many people who need it,” Carbajal said.