*Photos courtesy of Campbell County Emergency Management
(Gillette, Wyo.) The recovery efforts at the Oriva Hills subdivision north of Gillette are enjoying an impressive amount of support from volunteers, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Campbell County.
But the message at a press conference today in the county commission chambers is such outpouring of help tends to be high in the immediate aftermath of an event, and the recovery at Oriva Hills will take more than a year.
There’s a lot that’s needed now, but the relief coordinators don’t want people to forget about the victims of the tornado next week.
“The families are going to have needs for quite a while to come,” said Ivy McGowan-Castleberry, public information coordinator for Campbell County.
Commissioner Mark Christensen said donations of furniture and other needs are going to become more important after the residents have a place to live.
“We’re going to need you to remember this in six to nine months when people are back into a residence,” he said.
The coordinators estimate about 2,500 manhours have been donated toward the effort. To get an idea of the task ahead, McGowan-Castleberry said if the impacted area were the size of a football field, the efforts so far would have cleaned a couple yards of that.
“We’re literally picking piece by piece,” said Salvation Army Director Jenny Hartung.
The press conference today also included Emergency Management Coordinator David King, Oriva Hills resident Steve Fichter, and volunteer coordinator Gene Hanson.
Christensen stressed that cash donations, which the Salvation Army is facilitating, grant a lot of flexibility for the people coordinating the relief effort to address whatever needs come up in the course of helping people.
Hartung said the Salvation Army is ensuring the donations go directly to help with the relief efforts and not administrative costs.
They also need volunteers, and Hartung was adamant about it.
“This is my serious call for volunteers,” she said.
She said they have a lot of sharp material out there, as well as rattlesnakes. Volunteers are urged to dress in pants and wear high boots. Bring gloves and heavy-duty trash bags. However, the material tends to rip through the bags so buckets are even better.
“It’s a whole bunch of sheet metal and insulation,” she said.
And people who have ATVs and side-by-sides equipped with cargo racks can help pick up bags of material.
A huge need they have is also fencing materials and volunteers with fencing skills. While insurance is covering the reconstruction of homes, it doesn’t often cover fencing.
Hartung said the volunteers will be meeting Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m., for all day cleanup efforts. Anyone who has questions can reach her at 307-680-8881.
People can also find more information on how to donate to the relief effort on a Facebook page dedicated to it.
The task ahead
There are 25 sections of “debris fields,” which correspond to the homes that were damaged in the tornado. Some of the homes were completely destroyed.
This means a whole lot of material that needs to be collected before winds spread it out more than it already is.
“The quicker we get on it, the better,” Hartung explained.
Fichter’s home, he said, was a total loss. Fortunately, while it’s not inhabitable, the frame remained intact. So many of his belongings, including personal items that cannot be replaced, were not lost.
One home was torn off the foundation, exploded, and then rolled up a steep hill before coming to rest. Mail from one resident was found three miles away. The twister entirely obliterated one house.
“You wouldn’t know there was a home there….I mean gone. The guy never found his bed,” said Hartung.
While calling for more help to meet the enormous need, the speakers at the press conference also spoke of the extensive support the victims of the storm have received so far.
This includes one private donation of $1,000 this morning. A Montana organization offered $20,000 in fence repairs to the effort. Local storage facilities and warehouse owners have donated space for Oriva residents to store recovered belongings and donations. United Way is covering the cost of the insurance for the storage.
“What a great response it’s been so far,” Hartung said.