CNN reported this afternoon that the “toll in the tornado that ripped through Joplin soared to 116 on Monday … tying it for the single deadliest twister to ever hit American soil since the National Weather Service began keeping records.” Staff and volunteers from over forty agencies are still on the ground looking for survivors. According to the Post, La Nina (“cyclical drop in temperatures in the Pacific Ocean”) might be behind the over 300 tornadoes that have swept from Mississippi to Tennessee in the past several weeks — and nearly five weeks still remain “until the traditional end of the season.”
The blog Post also provided a list of ways to help on the ground and from afar. While we’ve seen this continually (and recently), social media’s power during unexpected crises sure is striking. Case in point: the blog points out that Relief Spark is keeping track of which shelters are open and then links directly to the organization’s Twitter feed — which not only lists the open shelters, but also gives the phone numbers for triage centers and donation drop-off points. Numerous Facebook pages have sprung up to help “residents find loved ones and help one another recover.”
Moreover, social media matters in these dire circumstances because needs emerge suddenly and consistently. And no matter where we are geographically, we are best positioned to help out when we have access to a constant stream of information. So what can we do to help, even from over 1,000 miles away?
- The Post blog links to local organizations, including the “Edward Jones branch office is accepting relief items that are recommended by the American Red Cross.”
- In partnership with FEMA, the Missouri Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) “are offering specific advice to those who are impacted or just want to help.”
- You can also keep an eye on AmeriCares, which “has dispatched a disaster relief expert to the impact area to assess needs for aid to health clinics and families left homeless and displaced.”
But to return to the social media arena for a moment, the most pertinent and critical needs in natural disasters often emerge as recovery continues — weeks and even months after the original event. So one of the most direct ways to help is, simply, to stay tuned in.