It's a year after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, and Chattanooga volunteers with the Red Cross are remembering the widespread devastation as the East Coast continues to put the pieces together.
Twenty-nine Chattanooga residents were some of the first to respond to the New York and New Jersey shorelines last October, and some volunteers stayed for weeks and made multiple trips to the northeast serve displaced families.
"It was amazing to see the six, seven, eight feet of sand from the beach that had washed 500 yards inland. Water was eight feet high in the homes there," said Dick McGee, a Chattanooga volunteer who served as a Red Cross public affairs worker.
McGee said he spent two weeks on Long Island interviewing families and writing about their situation for the Red Cross. The storm killed 117 people and caused about $65 billion in damages, officials said.
"In that instance, we could not get these (trucks) like you see here, down those streets, piled full of sand," said McGee. "So, the volunteers would take the food and walk two blocks to give it to people."
At the Chattanooga headquarters, shelves and trucks are stacked with supplies. But now, volunteers can help in more ways than one.
"I think the biggest change that's happened is the social media and the apps," said John Hitchens, the Red Cross emergency services manager. "The Red Cross has terrific apps for tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, finding shelters, first aid."
Even though the immediate need is over, the organization is still involved. The focus now is building up a community that continues to suffer from the loss.
"Once the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are satisfied for individuals, Red Cross is now looking to the community to determine what their long range future will be," said McGee.
Red Cross representatives said it took five years after Hurricane Katrina before they started to leave the Gulf Coast area. They said they will also be involved in Sandy recovery efforts for as long as they are needed.
Red Cross managers said they are always in search of volunteers to help during natural disasters.By Briona Arradondo