May 9, 2003 at 2:30 AM CDT - Updated June 21 at 7:30 AM
Volunteers Making a Difference In Massac County By: Kate Scott
(Grand Chain, IL)--The National Weather Service still hasn’t figured out exactly how strong was the tornado which hit Massac County on Tuesday night.
The storm was especially devastating because it killed one person, 65-year old Mariam Houchins.In addition, dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed.Right now, the Massac County Sheriff is estimating the structural damage at millions of dollars.
Thursday afternoon, storm victims were still picking up the pieces, power crews were still rebuilding the lines, and everyone was running low on energy.Everyone except volunteers that is, who seemed to be bringing the extra power that Massac county residents need right now.
“I hurt,” said a badly scraped and bruised Truman Neely, who took quite a tumble when the twister picked up his trailer, while he and his two sons were inside.They landed in a heap of rubble.“I'm hurting so bad I can't stand it,” he told Heartland News.
And Neely is just one of many people hurting in Massac County, both physically and emotionally. But even though he lost his home and all his belongings, he says volunteers are now bringing some sanity back to his life.“The Red Cross has stepped in,” he rejoices.“They've given us a place to stay for two weeks, and a meal ticket for two weeks. They've bought everybody clothes and shoes.They really went out of the way, I think.”
American Red Cross relief centers have been set up at the First Baptist Church of Metropolis, the First Baptist Church of Golconda, and the Grand Chain Elementary School.Southern Illinois storm victims can visit any location to get help with their immediate needs.
Right now, many victims say another big help would be getting power back. Crews from Oil Field Electric Company have been working around the clock to make that happen, but they say it could still be a few days for residents along Boaz and Grand Chain Roads.In the time being, other groups of volunteers are trying to address the problems that outage creates.“Without power, they can’t run their water pumps,” says Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Rosann Lingle.“And you don't realize how much water you need until you don't have it.”
Lingle and other volunteers are gathering at the Hillerman Missionary Baptist Church, where they can collect and distribute water containers to storm victims.They’re also providing free meals at lunch and dinnertime, to anyone who needs it.Lingle says they fed around 200 people for lunch on Thursday.
While Lingle is from Dongola, other members of the relief team have come from all over the state.The volunteers simply say “that’s what they do” when disaster strikes, and they come prepared to help with anything.“They’re working with their chainsaws, they’re cleaning yards and roads, and they’re helping cover the houses with tarps,” says Lingle.“We also have a child care team going from house to house, talking with the kids and giving out packages of toys and games so they have something to do."