Red Cross helps Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Tulsa

Wednesday, August 31st 2005, 9:53 am
By: News On 6

Some of the Hurricane Katrina refugees have made it as far north as Tulsa, where they've found shelter with family members, but they are also going to need help.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says we’ve heard reports of 9 people to a house, 12 people to a house, and even 16 people to a house. And some of these are not big houses. So, The Red Cross is going to have its work cut out for it.

Sybil Hayes says her sister-in-law Varuna arrived in Broken Arrow late Tuesday night, after 48 hours of traffic jams, long highways, and motels with no air-conditioning. "What you see them in is what they have. She doesn't even have her paperwork, birth certificates." Varuna Hayes McKendall: “It's just unbelievable, you keep wanting to feel like it's a dream, that I'll wake up and that it's just a dream."

Evacuees and their families started finding their way to the Red Cross Wednesday. Right now, the Red Cross can only help with the barest of necessities, blankets, medications, toiletries, a few snacks. Eventually, they say they should be able to provide clothing and motel space to help people with their crowded conditions. Nellie Kelly with the Red Cross: "So far we've helped about 20 families and this is just in the first few hours. Some of the families are talking about enrolling their kids in school; some of them are looking for job already. So there's really some desperation.”

Varuna is a school teacher in New Orleans, at least she hope she still is. "I've seen pictures of the schools themselves just totally underwater. I don't know what shape the school system will be in.” Sybil Hayes: "Even if you went back, you're going to go back to do what? The stores, every place a person would work is gone."

Varuna Hayes McKendall: “you just don't even know when you'll be able to get in touch with your family either. So I am grateful, God has blessed us that we made the decision to leave when we did."

As you might expect, the Red Cross needs cash donations. They're discouraging items, because they're hard to transport. They also are asking for volunteers and say they're ready to give them the crash course in relief work and food distribution.