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A pair of tornadoes tore through the Town of Pulaski and Draper, both in neighborig Pulaski County on April 8. A Roanoke Times news report on April 18 stated the damages from the tornadoes were estimated at $5.25 million, revised from an original estimate of $8.5 million.
The larger of the two tornadoes went through Pulaski and was a category F2, estimated to have 125 mph winds. The bulk of the damage occurred in Pulaski, but Draper experienced an estimated 110 mph F1 tornado of its own. Fortunately, there were no fatalities at either location.
Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency shortly after the storms.
The Red Cross, The Salvation Army and others assisted those affected by the storms. The media quickly reported the storms to the public and aid has come from all over. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still evaluating the damage to see if Pulaski qualifies for federal aid.
Radford University has been active in the recovery efforts. Sophomore Suzanne Tallie is working with the Exercise, Sport and Health Education (ESHE) department to bring supplies to the students of Pulaski Middle School. Tony Viers is a resident of Pulaski that is funneling supplies from Tallie and the department into the appropriate areas. Viers was not directly affected by the tornado.
“I can say that the ESHE department has really helped Tony [Viers],” Tallie said. “We support all his efforts.”
She went on to talk about the department’s involvement with community development.
“ESHE as a whole is a department that loves to give back to others.”
Viers’ focus is getting the kids to school with the things they need. He’s collecting book bags with food, clothes and school supplies in them to make sure the kids can get back to school as soon as possible.
The ESHE department is not alone in their efforts. RU’s chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma attempted to schedule a trip for April 16 to help clean up some of the debris, but they were shut down due to reports of people posing as residents in order to get food and clothes from volunteers.
“We can no longer do the cleanup because they have blocked off the area,” said sophomore Rikki Simpson. “It blows my mind that people would use this tragedy for personal gain.”
The university has posted collection sites all over campus in order to collect supplies for the families of Pulaski and Draper. They are marked with large signs sporting a list of items. Students were asked to contribute in an email from student information systems that contained the same list.
Even though the press has covered the event and the university has notified students via email about the tragedy, many students are unaware of the magnitude of the situation.
Nik Abitvajm, a sophomore studying environmental biology, said “it’s radical how much damage there is. It’s shameful how little people know about the situation.”
He admitted that he heard the news from a professor and not through the media.
The relief efforts are ongoing and the people of Pulaski and Draper still need help from surrounding communities.