Volunteers Aid Victims In Storm-Ravaged South

PRATT CITY, Ala. -- Tornado victims in splintered Southern towns say volunteers are ensuring they're well-fed and warm at night, whether by refilling blood pressure medicine or patrolling neighborhoods in a grocery-filled pickup truck. At least a few, though, say they need more from the government: Help getting into their homes and cleaning up endless debris.

Across the twister-ravaged South, students and church groups aggressively tended to those who needed it most, clearing away wreckage and handing out food and water. Wednesday's tornadoes marked the second-deadliest day of twisters in U.S. history, leaving 342 people dead across seven states — including 250 in Alabama. Thousands were hurt, and hundreds of homes and businesses have vanished into rubble.

Federal Emergency Management Agency workers provided information to people in shelters about how to apply for help. National Guard soldiers stood watch, searched for survivors and helped sift through debris. Churches transformed into buzzing community hubs.

In Tuscaloosa, a Red Cross shelter was distributing clothes and providing counseling for folks like Carol Peck, 55, and her 77-year-old mother. She said the shelter's First Aid station even refilled her blood pressure pills without her having to ask.

She can't explain how it happened, but she suspects her clinic contacted the shelter.

"Evidently, because I sure didn't call," she said. "They knew I was here. I don't know how, but they found me."

In Ringgold, Ga., Poplar Springs Baptist Church had become an informal help center. Crews were dispatched from the church, some with chain saws to chop through the debris, others with bottled water and food. Inside the gymnasium, a barbecue buffet was feeding those without power.

"You've got elderly people out there who can't get out there and do it," said volunteer Kathleen Hensley, 40, of Ringgold. "They need a hand."
AP