SF Man Heading To Tornado-Torn Oklahoma To Assist With Recovery

Two Bay Area residents are heading out to Oklahoma to help people recover from a devastating tornado that struck the region earlier this month, American Red Cross officials announced today.

Health services volunteer Erick Digre, of San Mateo County, will leave this weekend and San Francisco resident Pascale Vermont, a disaster mental health volunteer, will leave Thursday morning to assist hundreds of other Red Cross volunteers who are providing food, shelter, supplies, support and other assistance in Moore, Shawnee and other Oklahoma cities affected by the May 20 tornado.

As many as 880 Red Cross disaster workers have been deployed to the tornado-torn region and set up emergency aid stations.

A week after the tornado struck, 400 people spent the night in shelters in Oklahoma, Red Cross officials said.

Volunteers in the area are providing more than 27,000 relief supplies which includes pet food, batteries, sunscreen, coolers, buckets, gloves, dust masks, trash bags, flashlights, tarps, shovels, rakes, blankets and other items.

The Bay Area volunteers will also help residents preparing for more severe weather that may return.
The National Weather Service has placed 28 counties in central Oklahoma on tornado watch until 11 p.m. local time.

In Moore as many as two-dozen people were killed and thousands of homes, businesses and communities destroyed in the May 20 twister.

Other Bay Area support was deployed to Oklahoma following the disaster.

Capt. Steven Promes, a member of Oakland-based California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4, provided transportation and logistics support to three rescue teams that have responded to Okalahoma from Texas, Tennessee and Nebraska.

Tim Campbell, program coordinator of California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3 based out of Menlo Park, said the task forces that were utilized from those three states have completed their searches and were released from duty at the end of last week.

His 80-member group was placed on stand by, but never called out to assist.

Campbell said teams that are closer geographically are called to disaster scenes first.

There are 28 USAR teams nationwide, and eight from California, that can be called on by FEMA to assist in major incidents, Campbell said.

From the Bay Area, people can help tornado victims by making a donation at redcross.org or by calling (800) RED-CROSS (733-2767).

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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