Back on their Feet: Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee One-Year Report

Red Cross disaster worker Eilene Guy comforts Maria Pennell, mother of six, at a Red Cross shelter after a tree fell on her home when Hurricane Irene struck North Carolina.

One year ago, the entire East Coast braced itself for potential disaster, watching anxiously as Hurricane Irene formed in the Atlantic and took aim at U.S. shores. Irene’s path put millions in danger from Puerto Rico to Maine. Major landfall occurred on August 27, with Hurricane Irene threatening major metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston. On September 4, Tropical Storm Lee made landfall in Louisiana generating tornadoes that swept across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Moving north, Lee exacerbated devastation in regions hit hard by Irene such as New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

In the middle of the night, Doug Ramage and Tricia Price were forced to evacuate their home in Ridgeland, Miss., because of flash flooding triggered by Lee. They walked through nearly two feet of water, then rescue teams met them with good news—the Red Cross had prepared a shelter for them and their neighbors at a nearby church. Knowing they had a safe place to stay was one less worry for the couple.

“Everyone has been good to us here. We are comfortable, this has been good,” said Ramage.

“I am so grateful for the Red Cross, we had nowhere to go,” Price added.

Despite the immense scope of the storms’ impact, the American Red Cross was ready to meet this challenge and assisted millions of people in the wake of both Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Nearly 9,000 Red Cross disaster workers from across the country provided more than 70,000 overnight stays in more than 600 shelters. We served more than 2.5 million meals and snacks and distributed nearly a million relief items, including cleanup materials, hygiene items and recovery tools such as buckets, tarps, rakes and shovels. In addition to providing these basic necessities, Red Cross health and mental health volunteers and caseworkers were in shelters and going door-to-door to ensure that families didn’t face this difficult time alone.

AmeriCorps and Red Cross volunteer Joseph Kennedy of New Jersey helps distribute relief supplies for those affected by Tropical Storm Lee in Binghamton, NY.

In the year that has passed since the storms struck, the Red Cross has transitioned from a national disaster response effort to local recovery assistance. The Red Cross is committed to helping ensure that disaster survivors have a plan for recovery and the community resources to help that plan succeed. Damage from Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and the floods that followed meant that thousands of families faced a long road to recovery. For many families, the unexpected repair costs would be an insurmountable challenge if it weren’t for the support from the Red Cross. The Red Cross assisted families with efforts such as tree and debris removal, home repairs, replacement tools that allow them to continue their professions, replacement medical equipment and special bedding for people with disabilities.

 As of July 2012, the Red Cross was still actively assisting clients in four states—New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia. Community non-profit agencies have formed long-term recovery committees to help coordinate services, locate resources for those in need and identify people in the community in need of long-term assistance. Through the recovery committees, Red Cross case workers meet one-on-one with families and individuals to fully understand their disaster experience and their unique disaster-caused needs. Together they develop a customized plan for recovery. By partnering with other agencies to deliver assistance, the Red Cross ensures that funds go further, helping as many people as possible get back on their feet.

A year has passed since Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee came ashore, but to those who lost their homes and their possessions in the storms, it seems as if the disaster occurred just yesterday. Each day survivors work diligently to restore their communities and return to their normal lives. Because of your support, they are not alone.

Facts at a Glance — Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee

  • Nearly 9,000 disaster workers deployed
  • More than 600 shelters opened, providing more than 70,500 overnight stays
  • 2.5 million meals and snacks served
  • Nearly 700,000 cleanup, comfort and relief supplies distributed
  • More than 43,000 health and mental health contacts made
  • More than 15,500 outreach visits conducted

The Red Cross is empowered by its supporters, who give selflessly because they believe in our mission. Thank you for choosing the American Red Cross as a conduit for your compassion. You can also visit us at where you can view our Disaster Online Newsroom and find links to the Red Cross community on your favorite networking sites.

You can help people affected by disasters such as wildfires, tropical storms and floods, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, click here or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).  Contributions may also be sent to American Red Cross, P.O. Box 91, Columbia, SC 29202 .

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