The Pryor Times

December 3, 2012

Pryor resident helps after hurricane

Staff Writer
Ted King

PRYOR — Pryor resident Phil Oura traveled to New York City to assist the Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Oura, a retired project manager with American Telephone and Telegraph, wanted to help. Oura worked with the Red Cross in relief for people who had been affected by the wild fires near Manford last July.

“When I was getting ready to retire, I knew I wanted to do something. I didn’t just want to sit back. I had donated blood and platelets to the Red Cross. I knew they did volunteer work,” Oura said.

Oura assists people after fires in Mayes County. The Red Cross provides people with food, clothing and shelter.

Sandy was a category one hurricane called a “Frankenstorm” by the media, in that it was freakishly large making land-fall two days before Halloween.

Sandy came ashore during a full moon which led to high tides causing flooding in parts of New Jersey and New York City.

After the storm, the Red Cross asked for volunteers to work in the devastated area for two weeks. Oura volunteered and was deployed to New York City on Nov. 2.

He worked as a part of a team providing food and shelter for people who had lost homes or were without power. His first stop was a shelter at John Jay High School in Brooklyn. The City of New York ran the shelter that could house 200 people, and the American Red Crossprovided assistance.

When the Brooklyn shelter closed, Oura was sent to Long Island.

“We worked to make sure they were safe and their needs were taken care of,” Oura said.

The Long Island shelter in Plainview, N.Y., in Nassau County was a Red Cross-run shelter. There were about 45 people who stayed in that shelter. Most of them elderly. Oura said  meals were brought in for the victims. The residents would serve themselves.

After the power was restored, the Plainview shelter was closed. Some volunteers wanted to return home. Oura wanted to stay and fulfill his two-week commitment.

He was reassigned to do “mass feedings” out of Emergency Response Vehicles or ERVs. ERVs are trucks owned by the Red Cross that resemble ambulances. There is a window in the side that allows meals to be handed out. ERVs came from across the nation to the area providing food.

“We would go out into neighboorhoods...or bring food to a certain spot. That was called fixed feeding.”

He said the Red Cross brought food to people in low income housing. Those meals were provided by the Baptist Men’s Association of Arkansas. A Baptist men’s group from Oklahoma prepared meals for people in New Jersey.

Oura served meals and drove the ERVs.

Oura said that in addition to providing meals and maintaining shelters, the Red Cross provided brooms and shovels, free to victims of the storm, to clean out their homes.

Oura said that the Baptist Men’s Association set up tents in parking lots and prepared meals inside the tents. “It’s like feeding an army,” he said. The meals are placed in boxes that can keep food hot for long periods of time. Those meals were then transported in the ERVs.  

Oura stressed that the Red Cross always needs volunteers, especially nurses.

He said of the hurricane victims, “they were devastated, but they were glad to see the Red Cross.”

Oura said approximately 5000 Red Cross volunteers were deployed to New York and New Jersey.

Over three million meals and snacks were served. There were 31,000 over night stays in Red Cross shelters. Approximately six million relief items, including clean up kits and comfort kits were dispersed and 48,000 mental health contacts have been made.