published Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Chattanooga man heads to Oklahoma to aid massive recovery effort

Michael Puryear puts his bags in the back of a truck packed with relief supplies at the Chattanooga division of the American Red Cross on Tuesday. Puryear and Louie Crowe will travel to Oklahoma to help with relief efforts in the areas devasted by Monday's tornado.
Michael Puryear puts his bags in the back of a truck packed with relief supplies at the Chattanooga division of the American Red Cross on Tuesday. Puryear and Louie Crowe will travel to Oklahoma to help with relief efforts in the areas devasted by Monday's tornado.
Photo by Patrick Smith.
HOW TO HELP

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  • photo
    A woman carries a child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla. The relationship between the woman and the child was not immediately known.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

UPDATES FROM OKLAHOMA

Our news partners, WRCB, are filing stories from the site of the devastation in Oklahoma. Follow their coverage here.

Red Cross disaster team coordinator Michael Puryear headed out to Moore, Okla., Tuesday morning unsure of the scope of the devastation — emotional, personal and property — left by an EF5 tornado.

He is sure of one thing, though.

"We'll be there as long as it takes," he said while prepping for the 780-mile trek to the Oklahoma City suburb.

Puryear, client case work manager and disaster action team coordinator from the Chattanooga Red Cross, and Jim Crowe of the Knoxville relief agency drove an emergency response vehicle to the tornado site.

"There's no way to prepare mentally " Puryear said. "I keep my head level, but you never get used to it. It's important to keep a strong mind in order to help those affected."

Red Cross officials said they dispatched about 30 emergency response vehicles to Oklahoma to support relief efforts; more are on alert. Two Southern Baptist Convention kitchens and kitchen support trailers will join the relief effort with the ability to serve tens of thousands of meals a day, according to the Red Cross.

Crowe and Puryear will assist with the distribution of supplies, as well as feeding the hundreds who were left homeless after the tornado tore through the suburban town of Moore.

Red Cross officials urge people to donate money, not clothes or other supplies.

"It's very hard to transport goods to the people in these disaster areas, but it's much easier to take the money and buy supplies there," said Faith Garner, volunteer services specialist with the Chattanooga American Red Cross.

"It also boosts the economy in the area of the disaster because the Red Cross will buy supplies there, helping the local economy," she said.

The sights Puryear and Crowe will witness will be tragic, but both have experience with natural disasters.

Both have worked tornado disasters. Puryear volunteered to help in the aftermath of the Joplin, Mo., tornado and Hurricane Sandy. Crowe worked a tornado in West Liberty, Ky., in 2012.

"I am very passionate about helping others," says Puryear. "It is my calling."

Contact staff writer Kelsey Graham at kelseyleighg@aol.com.

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