Local Red Cross director assisting in hurricane relief

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

While most people in North Carolina on Saturday were trying to get away from Hurricane Irene, Cheryl Klueppel was driving into the storm.

Klueppel, executive director of the Southeast Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross, arrived in Wilson, N.C., late Saturday afternoon to begin a three-week mission to aid the area's recovery from the hurricane.

"We're very busy," she said Tuesday. "There are a lot of people here with damaged homes or still without power."

Klueppel has been splitting her time between Wilson, a city of around 48,000 two hours west of the North Carolina coast, and Rocky Mount, a city of around 57,000, to its north. Around 250,000 people in the area remained without electricity Tuesday morning, Klueppel said.

The damage in the area is mostly from the hurricane's winds, she said, although there is flooding in some areas.

"There are many trees across roads and on top of homes," she said. "It's very similar to the aftermath of a severe storm that would hit in Southeast Missouri, but over a much larger area."

She has been working in partner services, a position that ensures good communication between the Red Cross and other agencies such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Salvation Army, emergency management agencies and local community leaders to avoid duplication of disaster relief.

She said the communities of Wilson and Rocky Mount are similar to Cape Girardeau in size and setting.

The Red Cross has 18 shelters set up throughout the region that offer shelter, food and mental health services as well as other accommodations.

The trip has so far been a learning experience for Klueppel, since it is the first time she has been deployed to aid with a major disaster outside Southeast Missouri.

She said she has noticed is that disaster relief seems very consistent throughout the country.

Although Klueppel's interaction has been mostly with other agencies, she visited displaced families in Rocky Mount on Tuesday.

"You could see the frustration on their faces," she said. "They were very distraught."

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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