Victims still in need

Bob Hunger, a Red Cross volunteer, stands by his Emergency Communication Response Vehicle outside the Red Cross office in downtown Clovis. After the tornado on March 23, the Red Cross deployed one of nine ECRVs. (CNJ staff photo:Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

A replacement car window, food and water, items for the baby, a place to sleep — the list of unique needs goes on and on.

More than a dozen residents waited hours Thursday at the Curry County Fairgrounds to meet with representatives from local agencies offering disaster relief.

Just shy of a week since a tornado devastated hundreds of Clovis lives, reality is setting in, according to Mary Lombrana, a family services coordinator with the Salvation Army.

“A lot of them are having a hard time accepting they have nothing,” she said.

A large portion of the people affected by last week’s tornado were already in a low-income bracket, Lombrana said. She estimated 90 percent of the people she is directing toward disaster resources were facing economic challenges before a tornado cut a three-mile path of destruction through Clovis, damaging an estimated 500 buildings and killing one person.

South Prince Street along U.S. 70 and the area around Yucca Junior High School were among the hardest hit.

“They’re already down and somebody just comes and pushes them further down,” she said.

Lombrana said her priority is to determine each person’s needs and get everyone connected with a resource that can help.

She estimated the Salvation Army handed out hotel vouchers to 70 people Wednesday night, and a new wave of disaster victims turned up at the fairgrounds Thursday, some hearing of aid opportunities for the first time, she said, and others realizing their situation wasn’t going to improve without assistance.

However, Wednesday was the last day the Salvation Army was able to provide hotel vouchers,

Lombrano said a shelter has been established at Trinity United Church on West 21st Street for people who still need a place to stay.

Nicole Saiz said her landlord told her she couldn’t stay in her home anymore because of extensive damage.

She was informed the insurance had run out a few months ago and doesn’t believe the property owner has intentions of repairing her Maple Street residence.

Saiz said her daughter’s nursery was the focal point of the destruction. Most of the child’s belongings are gone, she said.

“My daughter’s room took it the hardest,” she told, explaining she needs a home and “pretty much everything you would need for a 7-month-old.”

Though her parents are sheltering her for the time being, the 28-year-old disabled woman is looking for assistance to get back on her feet.

“We’re grateful that they are safe, that’s the main thing,” her father, Luis Saiz, said. “It can happen anywhere to anybody.”

What has made the situation bearable is the compassion of the community, Nicole Saiz said.

When she returned to go through her house after the storm, Nicole Saiz said a volunteer group was working in her yard.

“When they said they were there to help, I broke down,” she said. “It felt good to know that the people here really will help each other.”

The city of Clovis and Curry County will hold two town hall meetings today for residents of areas affected by the tornado:
—1 p.m., Parkview Elementary School, 1121 Maple St.
—3 p.m., Lockwood Elementary School, 400 Lockwood Dr.
Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way of Eastern New Mexico
representatives will be present.

Calling all readers
The Clovis News Journal wants to hear your tornado stories. Tell us …

—What happened to you? Were you hunkered down in a hallway? Standing at a window trying to see out? Reading a comic book, oblivious to it all? Tell us what you were doing when the tornado hit, and what happened next.

—Missing anything? Did you lose a pet, a favorite photo, a wedding ring? Describe it. Maybe somebody else found it for you.

—Anything weird happen? Tornadoes are infamous for destroying homes, but leaving board games undisturbed on kitchen tables. Tell us about your odd experiences with March 23’s big wind.

—Want to say thanks? The Clovis News Journal will also publish thank-you letters related to March 23’s tornado. Please limit letters to 150 words and be specific about who you want to thank and why. And yes, we will waive our Opinion page policy regarding for-profit businesses, so that readers may thank them for services performed during the storm.

—Send letters to: dstevens@cnjonline.com

—Sunday’s edition of the Clovis News Journal has been reprinted for those unable to purchase a copy after we sold out. The papers are available at the CNJ office, 521 Pile, during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.