Volunteers, charities help victims to rebound from Hurricane Florence so they don't have to 'face this tragedy alone'

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
September 19, 2018, 2:24:09 PM EDT


Hurricane Florence hammered the Carolinas with damaging winds, storm surge and catastrophic flooding; now charities and volunteers are helping victims get back on their feet.

Charities are delivering medical supplies, food, clothes and shelter as well as rescuing trapped residents and beginning the clean-up process.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Members of the North Carolina Task Force urban search and rescue team wade through a flooded neighborhood looking for residents who stayed behind as Florence continues to dump heavy rain in Fayetteville, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.

(Photo/The Red Cross)

Claudia moved to eastern North Carolina after living through Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Thirteen years and six children later, Claudia didn't want to take any chances with Hurricane Florence. She packed up her children and sought refuge at a Red Cross shelter.

(Photo/American Red Cross/Daniel Cima)

Nyasa has been a resident of nearby New Bern, North Carolina for over a year. She evacuated with her three-month-old daughter Michelle to the Red Cross shelter on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

(Photo/American Red Cross/Daniel Cima)

Brothers Amier and Nazier play at a Red Cross shelter in Washington, North Carolina.

(Photo/American Red Cross/Daniel Cima)

Ouida has been a resident of nearby Belhaven, North Carolina, after she moved to the area following a flood that impacted her home in coastal North Carolina in 2010. Ouida and shelter volunteer Elaine Johnson have found friendship amid the chaos.

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

The staff of NC MedAssist inventory donated medicines and supplies from Direct Relief on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

The staff of NC MedAssist inventory donated medicines and supplies from Direct Relief on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018,

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

The staff of NC MedAssist inventory donated medicines and supplies from Direct Relief on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018,

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

Direct Relief's Dan Hovey delivers medicines and supplies at a FedEx Distribution Center to deliver to health facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 14, 2018.

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

Direct Relief's Dan Hovey loads critical medicines and supplies at a FedEx Distribution Center to deliver to health facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 14, 2018.

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

Direct Relief supporting health centers and free clinics across the East Coast that may be impacted by Hurricane Florence in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 14, 2018.

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

Delivering Direct Relief-made emergency medical backpacks to Mecklenburg EMS Agency - Medic in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The organization requested backpacks for EMTs that will be administering care in shelters throughout the region.

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

Delivering Direct Relief-made emergency medical backpacks to Mecklenburg EMS Agency - Medic in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The organization requested backpacks for EMTs that will be administering care in shelters throughout the region.

(Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)

Delivering Direct Relief-made emergency medical backpacks to Mecklenburg EMS Agency - Medic in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The organization requested backpacks for EMTs that will be administering care in shelters throughout the region.

(Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

Samaritan's Purse in New Bern, North Carolina.

(Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

Residents overwhelmed with joy to see Samaritan's Purse workers in New Bern, North Carolina, after Florence.

(Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

Residents overwhelmed with joy to see Samaritan's Purse workers in New Bern, North Carolina, after Florence.

(Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

Samaritan’s Purse helping residents after floodwaters destroyed their home in New Bern, North Carolina.

(Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

Samaritan’s Purse helping residents after floodwaters destroyed their home in New Bern, North Carolina.

(Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

Samaritan's Purse workers helping residents in New Bern, North Carolina.

(Photo/Samaritan’s Purse)

Samaritan's Purse workers helping residents in New Bern, North Carolina.


Thousands of residents are displaced from their homes due to the ongoing flooding, following record-breaking rainfall across much of the Carolinas. The highest rainfall, 35.93 inches of rain, was recorded near Elizabethtown, North Carolina.

Florence has dumped nearly 2 feet of rain on Wilmington, North Carolina, bringing the 2018 rainfall total in the city to over 86 inches. This washes away the old yearly rainfall record in the city of 83.65 inches, set in 1877.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s office reported Monday that 2,600 people and 300 animals had been rescued from flooded areas and more than 15,000 people had sought refuge in shelters. On Monday, 23 truckloads of food, water and supplies were shipped to Wilmington, he said.

Samaritan's Purse

“In the wake of this storm, many are facing destruction and ruin. We want them to know they don’t have to despair. God loves them, and He hasn’t forgotten them," said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse.

Samaritan’s Purse has sent two Disaster Relief Units and 10 pieces of support equipment to assess damage in the hardest-hit areas of the Carolina coastline. Two more relief units are standing by. Stocked with tools, chainsaws and emergency supplies, the tractor-trailers provide the North Carolina-based organization with the equipment necessary to help families devastated by the storm.

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Samaritan's Purse workers helping New Bern, North Carolina, residents. (Photo/Samaritan’s Purse/Marshall Foster)


"The devastation caused by Hurricane Florence is overwhelming. We are seeing the full extent of hurricane damage—tidal surge flooding, wind damage and downed trees. With rain continuing to fall in the state, we are anticipating that freshwater flooding may be next," Media Relations Manager for Samaritan's Purse Kaitlyn Lahm said.

The organization said they are preforming a large-scale response.

"Samaritan’s Purse has already deployed disaster relief teams to New Bern, Jacksonville and Wilmington, North Carolina. Every day, teams of volunteers are helping hurting homeowners mud-out flooded homes, tarp roofs and clear debris," Lahm said.

According to Lahm, many families need physical assistance recovering from Hurricane Florence.

"They need help clearing debris, tarping their roof, removing furniture and other flood-soaked belongings and tearing out damaged flooring and drywall. This is why Samaritan’s Purse has deployed to three locations in the state," Lahm said.

Samaritan’s Purse needs people who are willing to get their hands dirty and help North Carolina families recover.

"Today, I met a homeowner, Kathy Warren, who was overwhelmed with gratefulness towards Samaritan’s Purse volunteers. She said she wouldn’t have known how to face this tragedy alone—because of the Samaritan’s Purse army of volunteers she doesn’t have to," Lahm said.

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Samaritan's Purse in New Bern, North Carolina. (Photo/Samaritan’s Purse/Marshall Foster)


In one day, they had more than 75 local volunteers worked throughout the town of New Bern.

Lahm said the state of North Carolina faces a long road of recovery.

"Samaritan’s Purse is committed to helping families get back on their feet. We want to help them recover from the storm both physically and spiritually," Lahm said.

Direct Relief

Another charity, Direct Relief has had staff on the ground in North Carolina since before Hurricane Florence made landfall. They have been delivering requested emergency medical aid, and coordinating with local health staff, many of whom are reporting serious impacts to their communities.

"As seen with hurricanes – from Katrina to Harvey and Maria – when supply lines are interrupted, patients with chronic health conditions in particular can face serious circumstances if they do not have access to their medicines," Direct Relief Director of U.S. Programs Damon Taugher said.

Direct Relief, through its network of community health providers, works to ensure patients are able to have access to their medicines to stay healthy, Taugher said.

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The staff of NC MedAssist inventory donated medicines and supplies from Direct Relief on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo/Direct Relief/Mark Semegen)


In Raleigh, North Carolina, Direct Relief has been coordinating with Advance Community Health, which treats more than 25,000 patients in the region each year. Chief Operating Officer Ryan Jury said that the health center conducted medical outreach services at local shelters in Raleigh over the weekend.

Last week, Jury reported that one concern was about evacuees running out of medications to manage chronic illness or getting sick. The group was working to provide access to medications to evacuees if needed and had created an expedited process so displaced people could be seen by a provider quickly and provided with prescription refills.

When residents are forced to evacuate their homes due to a natural disaster or emergency, medications needed to manage chronic conditions are often left behind. Insulin needed to manage diabetes, hypertensives for high blood pressure or inhalers for asthma are all essential for a person with these conditions. Without proper medication, that person can quickly fall into medical crisis.

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Delivering Direct Relief-made emergency medical backpacks to Mecklenburg EMS Agency - Medic in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. (Photo by Mark Semegen for Direct Relief)


"Health care providers on North Carolina’s coast today informed us of the value of the donations as they witnessed first-hand that many that did not evacuate simply could not, due to lack of transportation, knowledge of a place to go or the financial means to be away from their homes. Recognizing the value of having access to an additional stock of medicines for chronic health conditions, Direct Relief, since Hurricane Katrina, has prepositioned these mini-mobile pharmacies to ensure health centers and free clinics have access to additional resources for events like Hurricane Florence," Taugher said.

Direct Relief has shipped Emergency Health Kits to both Goshen Medical Center and Advance Community Health, as well as other local clinics and centers. Direct Relief will continue to ship requested supplies as needs become known.

The Red Cross

The Red Cross is providing safe shelter and comfort for evacuees across eight states. The organization said the number of people in shelters is regularly changing as the situation on the ground evolves.

Working with partners, the Red Cross has served more than 95,600 meals and snacks across eight states during Hurricane Florence.

“Over the coming days, we’re going to see a tremendous need for support. As rivers continue to rise and hundreds of roads remain closed, our biggest challenge will be in getting help to where it’s needed most,” Brad Kieserman, vice president of Disaster Services Operations and Logistics for the Red Cross, said.

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Claudia moved to eastern North Carolina after living through Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Thirteen years and six children later, Claudia did not want to take any chances in her preparation for Hurricane Florence. When she saw that the eye of Florence was forecast to impact her home, she packed up her children and sought refuge at a Red Cross shelter in Wilson, North Carolina. (Photo/American Red Cross/Daniel Cima)


About 2,200 Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country have been mobilized to help shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence.

“We’re doing everything we can, including working with partners like the National Guard, to move volunteers and supplies to critical areas. As always, we’ll continue to focus on providing safe shelter and warm meals, as well as comfort and support, because sometimes people just need to tell their story," Kieserman said.

The Red Cross is mobilizing 140 emergency response vehicles and more than 120 trailers of equipment and supplies, including more than 150,000 ready-to-eat meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 42,000 people.

The Red Cross is also working with the Southern Baptists to deploy nine field kitchens that can together produce 170,000 meals per day.

Save the Children

Save the Children is on the ground in North Carolina supporting the immediate needs of children and families displaced by the storm.

“Thousands of children have been taken from the lives they knew, and they have no idea what the future may hold," Save the Children’s Director for U.S. emergencies Sarah Thompson said.

Save the Children’s emergency response team is positioned in the Raleigh-Durham area, delivering essential child-focused supplies for displaced children and families in evacuation shelters. The emergency response team is also working with national and local partners to assess children’s urgent needs in response to Hurricane Florence.

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Save the Children are on the ground delivering essential child-focused supplies for displaced children and families in evacuation shelters and setting up safe play spaces in shelters where children can play, learn and cope. (Photo/Save the Children)


“Loss and displacement during disasters can affect children for years to come, and it’s critical we offer kids a chance to be kids again as soon as possible – as well as get them and their families the essentials they need during this difficult time,” Thompson said.

Save the Children said a young mom who brought her children to a safe play space set up by Save the Children said it was a relief to have a place where her kids could keep their minds off the storm, to play with toys, draw and make arts and crafts. Her family doesn’t live far from the shelter, but their home is near a river she fears will swell with Hurricane Florence’s heavy rains, threatening their neighborhood.

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'Why didn’t you evacuate?': Expert explains why fleeing Florence’s wrath wasn’t a privilege everyone could afford
Organizations around the country flock to the rescue of animals amid Florence
Michael Jordan, Carolina professional teams and universities offer relief, donations to Florence victims

It's never too late to assist the victims of Hurricane Florence. Charity Navigator and CharityWatch have lists of dozens of highly rated charities able and ready to assist with the help of your donations.

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