Tornado recovery center running more smoothlyby Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — For 1,100 north Minneapolis residents, operations proceeded more smoothly at the Tornado Recovery Center in north Minneapolis Friday.
About 2,500 storm victims showed up on the first two days of operations Wednesday and Thursday. By the third day, incident commanders and residents agreed they had worked out many of the kinks.
Residents affected by the tornado that swept through the area on Sunday are coming to Farview Community Center for food, water, cleaning supplies, assistance with paperwork, and a helpful smile.
One of the people standing in line for help on Friday was local blues singer Big John Dickerson.
"All my equipment that was in the shed, it's all wiped out now," said Dickerson. "I don't know exactly what can be done here, but I'm trying to find out."
The mid-America hall of fame musician lost three microphones, his drum kit, and everything it takes to be a Minnesotan -- his snowblower, his lawnmower and his weedwacker. He managed a smile anyway.
"That's all I got!" he said.
Standing in line behind Dickerson are a number of Hmong immigrants. Wearing a bright yellow apron, Chao Taylor with Hennepin County Public Health is volunteering as a Hmong interpreter.
Taylor said many non-English speakers didn't find out through TV or radio that help was available, but the information is starting to spread by word of mouth.
"They are not familiar with the different services that's been offered," said Taylor. "I was here yesterday and two ladies were just walking by, strolling by and somehow they poked their head in here. They got connected with me, so they just started making phone calls and that's how it kind of trickled folks in today."
Many victims lost their identification in the storm. Jennifer Jones-Mitchell needs duplicate state IDs and birth certificates for her family members. She says their documents were in a drawer in a basement that got flooded.
Jones-Mitchell said at first, she was a little hesitant to come to the Tornado Recovery Center.
"But it was really easy because this is my first time out doing anything, and I didn't know how this was going. It just looked chaotic and crazy on TV," said Jones-Mitchell. "And my daughter was like 'Mom, get up, you need to go today, you need to do something, you can't just sit in the house and watch it on the news.'"
Outside the recreation center, people formed a calm line in front of a big white tent stocked with water bottles, cleaning supplies, diapers and other essentials. Staff say they've improved their systems today, issuing tickets instead of calling names, so they can move people through more quickly.
A Park Police officer said people have been "saints" for their patience on previous days, and today the supplies began flowing hours earlier.
The bags are pre-packed, so each customer moves through quickly. Frances Major gladly accepted cat food for her cats, and diapers for her granddaughter.
Less than 30 seconds later, Major is wheeling a grocery cart full of assorted supplies out to the curb. When asked about her experience at the relief center, it's clear she's dazed by the generosity.
"Really nice. Really nice. Now I'm going to get all emotional," said Major, overcome by emotion.
A few blocks away from the recovery center, Patricia McLaurne and Delores Jones are whizzing down the sidewalk on Lyndale Avenue in their electric scooters. Mops and bags of cleaning supplies and provisions are hanging off their scooters in every direction.
Jones said they feel blessed for all the help.
"It's so beautiful that people are reaching out and actually helping. Because normally over north, nobody wants to help. They think everything is so bad over here," said Jones. "I'm just shocked by how everybody came together and worked as one. I'm just happy.."
The Tornado Recovery Center at Farview Recreation Center will be open for storm victims Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m.
- All Things Considered, 05/27/2011, 5:20 p.m.