AS unusually severe winter weather sweeps across the southern states of the USA, The Salvation Army is providing food, shelter and vital supplies in several locations. In much of this region, snow is so unusual that many cities do not have snow ploughs or salt/grit trucks, meaning that only a few inches of snow can cause gridlock.
In Atlanta, Georgia, The Salvation Army is partnering with the National Guard to distribute warm meals and hot coffee to motorists who are stranded along the interstate roads. 'Many have been stranded for more than 16 hours,' says Metro Atlanta Area Commander Major Todd Hawks. 'We just want to bring comfort to those who have had to endure low temperatures and snow.'
Salvation Army canteens are in place to offer food, hot drinks and spiritual support, and the Red Shield shelter at 400 Lucky Street in downtown Atlanta is preparing hot meals for stranded motorists.
Currently, warming centres are open and community centres have all shelters open and are taking necessary steps to allow for additional accommodations of men, women and children who have been affected by the winter storm.
Sleeping bags for bus passengers
A disaster services team from the Salvation Army corps (church) in Jackson, Mississippi, responded when passengers were stranded at the town's Greyhound Bus Station. As roads in the area became impassable, buses were postponed and cancelled, leaving almost 100 people stuck at the bus station with no food, drink or shelter.
Divisional Emergency Disaster Services Director Thad Hicks says: 'Unfortunately, sometimes these small pockets of people get overlooked in a large event, but someone thought to call for help, and The Salvation Army answered.'
The Jackson emergency canteen served meals and hot coffee to people who had been stranded for up to two days. In addition to the food, everyone was given a coat, a cap and a sleeping bag.
Hot food for stranded lorry drivers
In Copiah County, about 30 miles from Jackson, The Salvation Army is providing assistance on the interstate, where around 50 trucks became stuck, with icy conditions making it impossible to get up even slight inclines.
Thad explains: 'We were contacted by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and asked if we could respond with food, coffee and water. We will be stationing ourselves at one of the rest areas and also venturing out to some of the other areas, taking coffee, food and water to those who are stuck.' Hot food and drinks are vital to help prevent hypothermia.
The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services team is accustomed to responding to hurricanes and tornadoes, but Thad says it is 'adapting quickly to this new ice hazard'.
In Birmingham, Alabama, getting stranded has not stopped Lieutenant Jamie Leonard from helping others in need. She was stranded on a snowbound interstate route, eventually reaching a hotel at 2.30 am on Wednesday 29 January.
Her husband, Lieutenant Brian Leonard, told Cassandra Mickens of the Shelby County Reporter: 'She is going to have to stay over on Wednesday night as well, because the roads are still full of ice and abandoned cars – so she is cooking and serving a free meal to all of the hotel folks that have been stranded because of the weather. The hotel has given her permission and the use of their kitchen and equipment to do this.'
- Report based on updates at disaster.salvationarmyusa.org