Updated: May 07, 2010 10:26 PM EST. By Matt Smith, WBAY – click for video of story
Nashville’s mayor says flood damage will exceed more than $1.5 billion in that city alone.
At least 31 people are dead in three states — 21 of them in Tennessee.
Barbara Behling has seen the damage from Nashville to Memphis. “In many ways it’s overwhelming.”
The Red Cross volunteer from Oshkosh took a few minutes to talk with us on the phone Friday during the massive effort to get food, shelter, and aid to the people of Tennessee — help to some areas that couldn’t begin until nearly a week after the flood began.
“In many of those areas, the Red Cross is still not allowed in. You have to be a first responder or a firefighter, a policeman, search and rescue. They’re doing some body recovery,” Behling said.
To help capture the gravity of the flood, Behling tells the story of a seven-year-old girl, Priscila, whom she met at a shelter.
“She said, ‘Today’s my birthday,’ and I wished her happy birthday, and she goes, ‘We lost everything,’ and I said, “Well you still have your sister.’ She goes, ‘Yup, and I have my sister because we’re good swimmers and we were able to swim out of our house.’ And I inquisitively said, ‘You swam out of your house?’ She’s like, ‘Yup. Dad opened the door and we had to swim, and we swam to the shore and now we’re safe.’”
The work in Tennessee has barely begun. Behling knows the need and loss will continue for weeks.
“It’s predicted with some rain showers tonight, so we’re all a little on edge,” she said Friday.
On Saturday a second American Red Cross volunteer from Northeast Wisconsin will head to Tennessee.