Southern Nevadans reach out to tornado-stricken Oklahomans

As Oklahomans struggle to recover from a massive tornado that wrought devastation Monday afternoon, Southern Nevadans are stepping up with recovery aid and assistance.

The American Red Cross of Southern Nevada already has one volunteer in Moore, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City where at least 24 people were killed in the disaster.

Jennifer Ramieh left Las Vegas on Monday afternoon and arrived at a scene she said resembled a war zone.

“It looks like a bomb went off,” she said of a hospital across the street from her base of operations. “The front half looks literally shredded. To use the word devastating doesn’t really do this justice.”

The tornado that tore across 17 miles had a rating of EF5 on the enhanced Fujita scale — the most powerful type of twister — and was on the ground for 40 minutes. In addition to those killed, hundreds were injured by the tornado that destroyed homes, hospitals and schools.

Ramieh, a Southern Nevada Red Cross spokeswoman for more than three years, has been coordinating with media and the American Red Cross.

“This is utter destruction,” she said. “It’s going to take some time for this community to get back on its feet.”

Ramieh was also in New York for Hurricane Sandy and in Florida for Hurricane Ike.

The Red Cross has been active in helping survivors get clothing, food and shelter. Additional personnel and supplies are ready to send out, if needed. The agency has 800 volunteers on standby who can fly out with four hours’ notice. Two feeding trucks are ready to be shipped to Oklahoma if current resources become strained, said American Red Cross of Southern Nevada public information officer Lloyd Ziel.

“If this escalates to a bigger response, it’s possible our trucks would go as well,” Ziel said. “Oklahoma is used to responding to tornadoes, so they have very good resources.”

But it’s going to take a long time for Oklahomans to recover, Ziel said. “With something like this, we don’t move a lot of assets, we send money.”

Ziel praised the residents of Southern Nevada and their willingness to help others in disaster situations.

“I think people feel lucky that we’re in an area with very few natural disasters,” he said. “Southern Nevadans are very quick to answer the call when it happens somewhere else.”

People who want to help are urged to donate through the website at www.redcross.org, by calling 1-800-redcross or by texting Red Cross at 90999 to make a $10 contribution.

Contact Rochel Leah Goldblatt at rgoldblatt@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.