This past weekend East Tennessee got a small taste of Hurricane Florence that first hit land in North Carolina on Friday.
Social media was filled with stories of those who were ordered to leave their homes and seek shelter elsewhere because they lived right in the hurricane’s path. Pictures were shared and shared again.
When one hurts, we all come together to offer support and prayers.
While the storm was still churning in the Atlantic, people all along the East Coast started preparing. Those living in North Carolina were ultimately in the predicted hurricane path. They had to leave their homes – but where to go?
Some landed here in our East Tennessee communities and they were welcomed with open arms. The Red Cross of Tennessee opened shelters to take in anyone needing a warm blanket, food and a safe place to sleep. There were a total of 64 shelter overnight stays at three Red Cross shelters, according to Sarah Basel, regional director of Red Cross communications.
Within the first couple of days, volunteers served over 1,800 meals and snacks. More than 75 Red Cross workers were on hand to support disaster relief operations in East Tennessee, at shelters in Chattanooga, Johnson City and Knoxville.
Officials at Bristol Motor Speedway also opened its campgrounds free-of-charge to hurricane evacuees. The visitors were treated to lunch and rides in the official pace car, according to the BMS facebook page.
Area churches, such as Crossroads Christian Church in Gray, also opened their doors to evacuees. RIO Revolution Church and Blount Community Church, both in Maryville, combined efforts to collect cases of water to send to areas affected by the hurricane.
Discover Bristol announced attraction discounts for evacuees and several area hotels and motels offered reduced rates.
Evacuees didn’t even have to worry about whether or not they would find a place where they could bring their pets. The Red Cross shelters offered pet areas, and BMS and some hotels accepted pets as well.
Staff at East Tennessee State University are getting involved by collecting items to make personal hygiene kits for evacuees who still need a few things to make their stay away from home a little more comfortable.
East Tennessee also responded by going into hurricane ravaged areas.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency sent teams into the hurricane affected areas, including first responders from police and fire departments in Gatlinburg, Knoxville, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.
If you want to get involved, there are still plenty of opportunities!