Free Meals for Elmira Storm Victims

Tornado Clean-Up Continues

ELMIRA (WENY) -- Elmira Salvation Army volunteers didn't waste a second getting to work after Thursday's storms.  Thursday night they were serving dinners to emergency workers, and they've been handing out food and water to community members since Friday.

"It's great," says Joe Reaves, an Elmira resident. "It gets people out here, it gets them away from some of their worries right now."

And across the city, things are starting to look more normal.  Most of the branches are off the roads, and destroyed power poles are going back up.  City leaders and workers credit the swift actions of the entire community, including NYSEG.

"There's still a lot of debris out there, it's going to take some time," says Chemung County Executive, Tom Santulli.  "I'm guessing in about seven to ten, days you'll see the vast majority of it being removed off the streets."

At the Elmira Psychiatric Center, workers have cleared more than 50 trees over the past five days.  He says his team has logged over 30 hours clearing trees and getting the lot back to normal.

"I think everybody's been in a bind, but I think we've got control of it," says Greg LaRue with the Psychiatric Center.  "Things are looking a little better now."

Back at the Salvation Army, leaders say the speed of clean efforts is surprising, but they've been glad to help at every point.

"When we first came out and saw the streets, we thought, this is going to be a two week operation," says Major Craig Haggerty at the Salvation Army. "But it's moving so fast , they're getting it done in what I would think takes days...they're doing it in hours."

The Elmira location has passed out more than 2,700 meals since Thursday, and plan to serve more people from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. on Tuesday and 4 to 6 P.M. the same day. Volunteers say they'll keep food coming if it's needed, but will pull back if the need looks to be met.

"Sometimes people just need the extra help at the end of the month, it's hard times now," says one volunteer, Tom Corcoran.

Volunteers say the storm brought out the best in many people.  Strangers reached out to help each other afterwards, just doing what they could to restore power and normalcy to the area.  Volunteers and workers say they hope the momentum continues, and that folks keep giving until the entire community is back on its feet.

"It is a small tight knit community. So when you do something for one of 'em, it seems the ripple effect is tremendous," says Major Haggerty.