Storm recovery joint effort

By Janet Bresenham, Freedom New Mexico

The first anniversary of the March 23, 2007, tornado that struck eastern New Mexico with such destructive force falls on Easter Sunday.

For some people involved in helping survivors rebuild their lives and homes in the tornado’s aftermath, that seems fitting, said the Rev. Lance Clemmons, chairman of the Clovis-based Eastern New Mexico Disaster Recovery Council.

“Those of us who have worked all year to help tornado survivors look at the first anniversary being the same day as Easter as a wonderful thing because the Resurrection is all about new life and that’s what the council has been doing — helping people rebuild new lives,” said Clemmons, who also serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

When the full force of last year’s tornado hit Clovis, thousands of people suddenly had unexpected and immediate needs.

In the aftermath, thousands more wanted to help in any way they could.

Putting them together to meet long-term needs caused by the tornado that were not being met by any other agency led to the formation by dozens of faith-based and community-based organizations of the Eastern N.M. Disaster Recovery Council within the first few weeks after the disaster, Clemmons said.

Initially, the teams assisting tornado survivors and those whose homes were damaged or destroyed came from the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and those practiced in rescue, recovery and emergency response for disasters.

“Immediately after a disaster, we’re concerned with helping people get something to eat, clothes on their backs and a safe place to be,” said Scott Snyder, the Albuquerque-based director of emergency services for the Middle Rio Grande (N.M.) Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Snyder, who served as Red Cross operations director for the tornado emergency response the day it hit eastern New Mexico and Parmer County in West Texas, said he had personnel on the ground in Logan and Quay County helping victims there when the Clovis tornado hit. So he turned to the Salvation Army to take the lead in arranging emergency shelter and some of the other immediate needs of victims in Clovis.

Capt. Tammy Ray, Salvation Army Corps Officer in Clovis, said about 20 Salvation Army personnel and nearly 3,000 volunteers helped serve more than 12,000 meals and more than 33,000 snacks and bottles of water; distribute 118 gift cards for immediate needs and arrange motel rooms and other shelter for those suddenly displaced by the tornado.

The Salvation Army also served as the central point for donations of needed items such as clothing and furniture, Ray said.

Meanwhile, without duplicating efforts, more than 100 American Red Cross paid and volunteer workers kept busy assessing 742 residential dwellings in Curry, Quay, Roosevelt and Parmer counties for levels of damage; driving to neighborhoods hit by the tornado to hand out clean-up tools, such as rakes, shovels, work gloves, garbage bags, hammers and nails; and distributing vouchers for clothing, food and up to $500-per-person for building repair materials for immediate needs, according to Snyder.

At the same time, city and county government crews, along with scores of volunteers