WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Lucy Morgan, Luzerne County’s Emergency Management director, was sitting under a tent on Mundy Street Friday watching emergency responders and volunteers come and go as the post-tornado clean-up continued.
As Morgan talked, she noticed a woman volunteer handing out food to workers. It seemed like a rather menial task, but Morgan was quick to give credit to the woman, and all those — hundreds, she said — who have given their time to help after the devastating tornado twisted apart buildings Wednesday night.
“No matter what the job, whether it be entering buildings to search for entrapped people, or handing out food to the workers, every single person here is critical to the effort,” Morgan said. “There are no unimportant jobs here.”
Morgan said she and all responders and volunteers are relieved and feel extremely fortunate that there was no loss of life as a result of the tornado, and only few minor injuries.
“Whenever we hear ‘building collapse,’ we think the worst,” Morgan said. “We’ve all been here long hours and that does have an effect on everybody. But the entire operation has been tremendous. everybody deserves credit.”
Morgan said Bill Goldsworthy, local Red Cross executive director, told her that this was the first emergency response effort that his agency did not have to purchase any food for the workers/volunteers.
“We have received so many donations, it’s unbelievable,” Morgan said. “This truly is the Valley With a Heart.”
Morgan said responders from Luzerne, Lackawanna, Columbia and Wyoming counties came out, along with 12 are fire departments, 8 ambulance units, sheriff’s officers, 911 personnel and the Red Cross, among others.
Fred Rosencrans, Luzerne County’s 911 director, said right from the beginning of the tornado Wednesday night, the goal was to “control chaos.” He said it was a team effort.
“We urge the public to heed the warnings when they are issued,” Rosencrans said. “With tornadoes, the window of time between knowing it was coming and it actually touching down can be very quick. We had about five to 10 minutes of warning in this case.”
Rosencrans said this was the fourth tornado to his the region in the last four years. He said since 1838, the region has been hit by 50 tornadoes.
“Our are is one of the highest tornado-stricken regions in the country,” he said.
And then Rosencrans made another observation.
“I doubt in our lifetime that we will ever see a buffet table set up in the middle of Mundy Street,” he said.
Tony Camillocci, eastern regional director for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said he and his staff are conducting a preliminary damage assessment of the buildings affected. He said some 23 buildings had been damaged.
Morgan noted that the state Office of Unemployment had sent in a rapid response team to assist displaced workers to file claims.
For more on Wednesday’s tornado, click here.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.