VA emergency response lasts

After two weeks of intensive work and the distribution of more than 101,000 meals, Salvation Army volunteers in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia began to wrap up Isabel emergency response Oct. 3.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | HAMPTON ROADS, Va. | October 6, 2003


After two weeks of intensive work and the distribution of more than 101,000 meals, Salvation Army volunteers in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia began to wrap up Isabel emergency response Oct. 3.

Hampton Roads the metropolitan area that comprises Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach took a big hit from Hurricane Isabel, but it wasn't merely the powerful storm surge that accounted for The Salvation Army's lengthy emergency response there, said Grace Ramos, a Salvation Army spokeswoman. Instead it was the long-lasting power outage, which affected 1.8 million people at its peak, that proved to be the main impetus behind The Salvation Army's feeding effort, Ramos said.

The outages generally took a long time to rectify, she said, and on Sept. 29, 11 days after Isabel hit, about 140,000 people were still without electricity. That number has been greatly reduced in the last week down to about five percent of the population, she said, and most of those problems are due to structural damage to buildings, and not to the power grid.

The Salvation Army Isabel response represented the work of about 1,375 volunteers, as well as the cooperation of hundreds of volunteers with the Southern Baptist Disaster Response. Meal preparation and distribution was coordinated by the two groups all over the East Coast in response to Hurricane Isabel, Ramos said.

"We acquire all the food, the Southern Baptists cook everything and we distribute the meals," she said.

In providing the food necessary for cranking out an average of 7,500 to 8,000 meals a day, the Tidewater Divisional Headquarters in Norfolk exhausted an entire warehouse of food. Now local offices in the Hampton Roads area are accepting donations in order to replenish this stockpile.

Ramos said that 16 canteens were delivering food during the worst of the emergency response. Today there is one canteen still distributing meals in downtown Norfolk.

In addition to the meal distribution, more than 1,600 cleaning kits were also distributed as well as bottled water and ice.

Emergency response was spread around the Hampton Roads area, she said, but a particular focus was placed on the Willoughby Spit area in Norfolk, a neighborhood that got slammed by the storm surge as well as by a long-lasting power outage. To make matters worse, Ramos said many of the people in the neighborhood are of "lower socio-economic status" a fact that will likely mean a slow recovery from the storm.


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