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Relief Groups in Arkansas after Deadly Tornadoes: 'A Devastating Thing to See'

At least four confirmed tornadoes touched down in Arkansas during the winter storm this past weekend that struck three other states.
NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory
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At least four confirmed tornadoes touched down in Arkansas during the winter storm this past weekend that struck three other states.

JONESBORO, Ark. - Disaster relief responders are assessing the damage from the tornadoes that took two lives in northeast Arkansas and caused major destruction to hundreds of homes, businesses and other structures.

At the American Red Cross of Arkansas, executive director Lori Arnold said their disaster-relief team has been distributing emergency cleanup supplies in Craighead County, in Jonesboro. Along with surveying damage, she said, the Red Cross is offering mental-health services, as well as water and snacks to storm victims.

"We're just trying to locate all of the areas, especially the more rural ones that don't get as much media attention, to make sure that we are getting through to all of the people who need help," she said. "We're seeing debris spread all over, big loss of farmland and big neighborhood areas, and it's a really devastating thing to see."

Arnold said some of the ways people can assist are through financial donations to disaster-relief organizations. Donating blood is helpful, as many blood drives in the hard-hit areas will be canceled, despite a nationwide blood-supply shortage.

Humanitarian aid group Samaritan's Purse has about 40 volunteers in Poinsett County, who will assist with the clean up through Christmas Eve. As a native Arkansan, said Clay Steelman, the group's program manager of U.S. disaster relief, it's been heartwarming to see the outpouring of support from community members.

"You get to see neighbor helping neighbor," he said. "They're all gathering around, coming together and helping clean up homes. The communities are really rallying around each other, pitching in where they can, and Samaritan's Purse is kind of stepping in those gaps, along with some of the other relief agencies that are up here."

He said Samaritan's Purse still is looking for additional volunteers to assist in daily cleanups. Currently, one shelter is open to people in Trumann in Poinsett County. Similar efforts are under way in other states hit by the "Quad-State Tornado" - Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.