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Volunteering in Joplin - My Impressions

On Wednesday (June 1, 2011) FundRaiser sent a carload of volunteers to help with the disaster relief in Joplin, which is just 3 hours from here.  I was one of them.  These are my impressions…

We worked with a crew of about 20 from one of several disaster relief centers (I would estimate that there were about 200 volunteers just at this one, which was coordinated by the Baptist convention).  We were working on the outskirts of the worst of the damage – where there were still houses standing.  The houses might have lost parts of a roof, or had part of the house caved in, siding blown off, windows blown in, etc, but they were habitable and the occupants were there.

Anyway, we hauled brush and debris into piles.  Crews had come through the previous week and cut up the trees that were in the way or dangerous, and those were already piled up in huge piles.  And, the utility company workers had already replaced all the telephone poles that had been snapped off (which was all of them from what I could tell), so an amazing amount of work had already been done.  We were doing followup cleanup.  Each team had several “cutters” (those with chainsaws), a bobcat or tractor or two to lift heavy logs, and lots of us “haulers”.

We drove through a bit of the main damage.  The best way to describe it is to picture a huge kitchen blender.  Throw in 95% of the houses and cars and trucks and strip malls and storage units and churches.  Blend it all up and then throw half of it up into a giant fan to spread it evenly around.  Then take the other half and shoot it out a high-powered water cannon at anything left standing.

That level of damage is at least a mile wide and several miles long.  We heard that they are still finding body parts.  Whenever someone comes across a bad smell, they call in the police.

I could go on, but won’t.  It definitely makes you appreciate the raw power of nature and the flimsiness of civilization.

by Gene Weinbeck
Founder, Lead Programmer

Cleaning up after the 'other tornado'
Changing Contact Information

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