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SF Red Cross On Standby After Tornados

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The National Weather Service and the Storm Prediction Center received 84 tornadic storm reports yesterday, becoming one of the busiest, late season outbreaks ever.

Entire communities have been affected and some neighborhoods look like they were the victims of a missile strike, where fatalities are beginning to add up.  Working with meteorologists, the Red Cross was prepared days in advance for this

Tony Burke, Community Chapter Executive of the Sioux Falls Red Cross, says that the non-profit is all about efficiency.  "The last thing we want to do is start being reactive and responding after this stuff has happened.  We were already having that conversation a couple of days ago, you just never know to the extent of what is going to happen.”

The Red Cross uses the metaphor of dropping a rock into a pond.  Depending on the size of the disaster, that ripple will change in size as to who is called in.  Currently, any Red Cross chapter within 550 miles has been put on notice.  

With Sunday’s tornado outbreak centered in Peoria, Illinois, the Red Cross in Sioux Falls is on standby. Vehicles are gassed up and volunteers are ready to go at a moment's notice.

Burke says that surveying the scenes of the tornado have only just begun, "This is pretty early, so what's happening on the scene is they are assessing the situation, finding out how much damage is actually there, what kind of resources they really need by having conversations with community leadership, emergency managers and the public.  Once they have that information they start feeding it up the ladder saying we need this, we need that, and then we start pulling resources into the area.”

The volunteers, who are used to being gone for two weeks at a time, and who just returned from western South Dakota, find their work extremely rewarding.

Gail Palmer has been volunteering since 2006, “It's the best feeling in the world when you hand somebody a plate of beef stew and a biscuit, and they are so thankful for it.  It's the best feeling in the world just knowing that you're able to help, doing whatever you are able to do.”

It will take years for families to recover, but the Red Cross wants victims to know that they will be there to provide food, shelter, or just someone to talk to.

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