Days after American Legion Family members from across Alabama took relief supplies to Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, many were hunkering down as Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores, Ala.
Sally made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane early Wednesday morning, bringing historic flooding to the area. The slow-moving storm dumped more than 30 inches of rain in some parts of the Florida panhandle and southern Alabama on Wednesday, killing at least one person and leaving thousands without power.
Sally is the eighth named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. this year, the most ever through Sept. 16.
Hurricane Laura relief efforts
On Sept. 11, American Legion Family from across Alabama headed to Post 88 in Mobile, Ala., the staging area for the Department of Alabama’s Hurricane Laura relief efforts.
“It would be impossible to estimate just how much merchandise we actually collected and sent,” said Sons of The American Legion Southern Region National Vice Commander Blair Miles, the state’s point person for relief supply collection efforts after Laura. “There were approximately 25 different American Legion posts throughout the state that contributed in collecting items. Legion Headquarters was also a central hub for Legions as well as private businesses to bring items. There were a couple of local churches that collected items and made hundreds of face masks for this.”
Miles said several local grocery stores also donated trailer loads of merchandise to be delivered.
After spending the night in Mobile, the convoy of American Legion Family — including American Legion Riders, five 26-foot U-Haul trucks, a van, a large personal trailer, a 53-foot semi, and several “chase vehicles” — set out the morning of Sept. 12 for Baton Rouge, La.
“Louisiana’s SAL National Executive Committeeman John Lawrence, who is also a sheriff’s deputy, met our convoy at the Mississippi state line and gave us the ‘blue light escort’ all the way to the distribution center in Baton Rouge,” Miles said. “That was awesome!”
At Magnolia Care Center Veterans Home in Baton Rouge, American Legion Family members from across Louisiana joined their Alabama comrades in unloading the donated supplies for distribution across the state.
“The American Legion all over the nation is a big family,” Louisiana District 5 Commander Tina Cielatka said. “And I just came down to help my brothers and sisters that’s part of that family. Seeing everybody here and seeing other departments part of that family come and help gives you a warm and fuzzy, it makes you feel good. It lets you know that somebody else out there is there to help.”
Miles said American Legion Auxiliary members were on hand to distribute expedited emergency relief fund applications to other Auxiliary members there. And Louisiana officers including Department Commander Byron Comeaux, Detachment Commander Tommy Vasser and SAL Past National Vice Commander Camille LeJeune were on hand as well.
“They had recruited a large group of fine young men from local SAL Squadrons to greet and unload all of these vehicles,” Miles said.
The threat of Hurricane Sally still loomed over the effort, Miles noted.
“About half way through unloading, the skies opened up again and down poured on us the rest of the day,” he said. “When we were finished unloading, we beat feet back to Mobile, as Hurricane Sally was just a day out and heading our way.”
West Coast wildfires
While the Gulf Coast was enduring yet another hurricane threat, the West Coast was fighting a rash of wildfires that had caused some 30 deaths and dozens more missing.
Smoke from the wildfires had been carried by the jet stream all the way to the East Coast and beyond to Europe. More than five million acres have burned across California, Oregon and Washington.
With the wildfires still roaring, it was too soon for American Legion departments in those states to assess the full impact on American Legion posts and Legion Family members.
Department of Oregon Adjutant Flynn Phillips said in an email that Post 159 in Mill City, Ore., had burned, and he knew of at least one American Legion member whose house had burned down.
American Legion posts, and American Legion and SAL members, who have been impacted by natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, are eligible for relief from The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund (NEF).
The NEF provides up to $3,000 for American Legion and SAL members with an active membership who have been displaced due to damages to their primary residence, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community are impacted. To apply for an NEF grant, please visit www.legion.org/emergency.
Some NEF grants have already been issued to American Legion members in Texas who were impacted by Hurricane Laura in late August. Through Sept. 15, the NEF had issued 48 grants totaling $106,833 to help American Legion posts and American Legion and SAL members in 2020.
Since its creation in 1989 in response to the devastation of Hurricane Hugo, the NEF has provided more than $8 million in direct financial assistance to American Legion and SAL members and American Legion posts.
Donations are also accepted to fund the NEF. One hundred percent of donations to the NEF directly help veterans and their families recover from natural disasters. To donate to the NEF, click here.