OPELIKA, Ala. — Rescuers continue to sift through rubble and destroyed homes in southeast Alabama after a powerful tornado left 23 people dead, including children. That death toll could rise as more victims are found.
For those who have lost their homes and livelihoods, the work is just beginning to rebuild and get back on their feet in hard-hit Lee County and surrounding areas. Sunday’s tornado was part of a powerful storm that also cut through parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
Several organizations have stepped up to help and support those in need.
CHECK IN ON LOVED ONES
The American Red Cross has information on how to connect with people in the area through volunteer groups on the ground.
You can also call the Red Cross directly at 1-334-749-9981.
HOW TO DONATE
The Red Cross of East Alabama is accepting donations for those in hardest-hit areas including Barbour, Chambers, Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Pike and Russell counties. Monetary donations are accepted online, or those who want to directly give can stop by the nearest Red Cross office for more information.
The Auburn Dream Center in Auburn, Alabama is accepting needed items like diapers, granola bars, baby formula, baby wipes and hygiene products today. They have rescue teams on the ground who are starting the cleanup process.
They are supported by the Church of the Highlands, which has teams in Auburn, Opelika and Columbus on the ground assessing the damage. Those interested in a financial donation or volunteer can text the word “response” to 74000 and can opt-in to receive updates.
The East Alabama Medical Center has received at least 40 patients in the tornado aftermath, with more expected. Some patients have had to be transported to surrounding hospitals. East Alabama Medical works with LifeSouth, a blood center located in Opelika at 5431, 505 E. Thomason Circle.
The Red Cross in metro Atlanta serves regional areas in need. Blood volunteers can stop by any Red Cross facility to donate.
Opelika Animal Hospital is offering boarding services to displaced animals at no charge, according to the group’s Facebook page. You can find contact information here.
Providence Baptist Church in Opelika is offering shelter, food, water and counseling.
The Smith Station Volunteer Fire Department Station is also providing shelter and resources.
The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa is also pledging its support to storm victims.
Storage company U-Haul said it will provide 30 days of free storage for storm victims at two locations.
Verizon Wireless, meanwhile said it will be offering free calling, texting and data for prepaid and postpaid customers in the following Alabama counties: Barbour, Bullock, Henry, Lee, Macon, Pike, and Russell; and for the following Georgia counties: Grady, Harris and Talbot through March 10.
Additionally, the company is allowing Verizon customers to use their mobile phones to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross. Customers can donate up to 10 times by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
The Red Cross has set up a Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5590) for those seeking help with the mental and emotional effects of the storm.
The helpline is open 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
“When disaster strikes, people react with increased anxiety, worry and anger. With community and family support, most of us bounce back. Some may need extra assistance to cope with unfolding events and uncertainties,” said Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use.
“People seeking emotional help in the aftermath of a disaster can now call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 and begin the process of recovery.”
The helpline can also be accessed at http://disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/.