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  • Writer's pictureNEIA Red Cross

Red Cross Shelter Provides Safe Place After Tornado

By Ashley Peterson-DeLuca

At four in the afternoon on March 31 in Coralville, the Kahulumbanda family—mom Mamie and her three children—took shelter in their basement. A tornado, with gusts reportedly between 111-135 miles per hour, touched down in Johnson County, Iowa. The winds were strong enough to tear the roof off of the Kahulumbanda home.

“It seemed like something out of a movie. I didn’t believe the wind could be so strong until I saw it,” said Mamie Kahulumbanda.

“It was so loud. It didn’t sound like anything but loud,” added her 15-year-old son, Madry Kahulumbanda.

That day, nine tornadoes were spotted in Iowa. The city of Coralville experienced extensive damage from the storms, with many homes, businesses and trees destroyed.

When it was safe to travel, Dribo Kahulumbanda, father and husband, came home from work to help them assess the damage.

“We were just in shock,” says Mamie Kahulumbanda.

With their home left open to the sky, the rain drenched their belongings, beds, clothing – everything. Then, dust from the damaged building materials settled on top of it all.

The family made its way to the American Red Cross Shelter at the Coralville Recreation Center to figure out their next steps.

“While at the shelter, I played some basketball, foosball and watched my little sister,” said Madry Kahulumbanda.

Everyone is welcome at a Red Cross shelter. Volunteers offer a place to sleep, food and entertainment, and all disaster assistance is free.

There’s a lot of work to do to get back to normal, something Dribo Kahulumbanda understands all too well. He is known in the Congolese community for always being there to help others, including reuniting refugee families in the United States and helping others after the 2020 derecho disaster. Now, it is his family who needs support.

To learn how you can help others after a disaster, let us know you’re interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

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