New Englanders Foregoing Christmas at Home to Help Tornado-Ravaged Kentucky

Several volunteers from the American Red Cross of Northern New England left from Vermont Monday

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Several volunteers with the American Red Cross of Northern New England left Monday to serve in the disaster zone following this weekend's devastating tornadoes in parts of the Midwest and South.

The humanitarian aid agency says the level of need is massive.

"It's wonderful that we can be able to deploy together," said Jess Craig of Portland, who, along with her husband, is joining the urgent humanitarian response around Mayfield, Kentucky.

Deadly tornadoes cut a long trail of destruction through parts of the Midwest and South this weekend. Dozens of people have died and more remain missing.

"Everybody who goes realizes that they will do whatever is necessary," Red Cross volunteer Dr. Mike Craig said.

Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing at least six people overnight as a storm system tore through a candle factory in Kentucky, an Amazon facility in Illinois and a nursing home in Arkansas. The Kentucky governor said he feared dozens more could be dead.

The Portland couple flew out of Vermont, where they have family they chose to leave their dog with during their deployment.

The couple said they are expecting to use their medical backgrounds to provide health services to disaster survivors in shelters. He's a retired physician, she's a registered nurse.

"Seeing the help and the generosity and the compassion -- it's a wonderful thing to be a part of that, and to be able to make their day just that much better, after seeing what they've gone through," Jess Craig said of the residents of the disaster zone she and other volunteers will be assisting.

"It really is an honor to belong to this organization," Mike Craig added, referring to the American Red Cross.

Drone video shows the devastation the morning after deadly tornadoes tore through Western Kentucky.

The couple said this is their fourth Red Cross deployment. They recently volunteered in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida, they noted.

Another experienced volunteer, David Allen, also left Vermont Monday.

"Red Cross has need of volunteers in many different areas," the retired businessman from White River Junction said.

Allen explained he will work in finance, keeping an eye on purchasing and budgeting to make sure donations to the Red Cross are having the maximum impact on the ground.

Like the Craigs, Allen will be foregoing a traditional Christmas. He said he will be working in Kentucky for two weeks.

"They need people and the need is now," Allen observed. "We'll defer Christmas for a few days."

Photos Show Devastated Communities in Aftermath of Deadly Tornadoes

Jess Craig said she aims to find time on Christmas to video chat with loved ones between her duties in Kentucky.

The Mainers pointed out that disasters don't take a holiday, so they won't either -- they're driven to help by a timeless mantra.

"The Golden Rule," Mike Craig said. "'Do unto others.'"

Severe tornadoes in mid-December are a normally rare occurrence. But as NBC10 Boston meteorologist Pamela Gardner explains, we had wind shear, instability, and a strong jet stream to help fuel the tornado outbreak this past weekend. Here is the science behind what happened:

The American Red Cross said it is not accepting donations of food, clothing or household goods, because it would be too complicated to distribute such items.

If you'd like to help, it's best to either give money or to give blood, the organization sas. To find out how, go to or call 1-800-RED CROSS. Alternatively, you can make a blood donation appointment through the Red Cross Blood Donor app or give $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

Allison Rogers has seen tornado damage before in her career, but the damage in Mayfield, Kentucky brings back memories of one of the worst storms the U.S. has seen - Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed her Mississippi hometown in 2005. Rogers, a meteorologist at WLWT in Cincinnati, Ohio, shows us the scene in Kentucky and explains how the National Weather Service will review the damage to determine just how strong those destructive tornadoes were on the EF scale.
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