Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, March 5, 2012

'Disaster junkies' are reconstructing America's backbone during highest reported wave of natural disasters

Taking a break from laying sod in a tornado-torn neighborhood, volunteer David Elliott cocked his head to the left. He was trying to remember all the trips he's made to help rebuild after disasters.

Elliott went to New Orleans seven times after Hurricane Katrina swamped the city in 2005, or was it eight? He was in Nashville, Tenn., after floodwaters inundated the city in 2010.

He's been to Alabama three times since tornadoes killed about 250 people statewide in April. Wait: that was just last year?

'I've lost track,' said Elliott, of Sacramento, Calif.

Rebuilding after storms is becoming a growth industry as the United States is slammed by more natural disasters, and leaders of the response efforts say the nation's recovery network functions as well as it does because of a backbone of volunteers nicknamed 'disaster junkies.'

The small group of people like Elliott travel from tragedy to tragedy shoveling mud out of flooded houses and rebuilding neighborhoods laid waste by busted levees, tornadoes and wildfires. Often, they bring more helpers with them.

On Friday severe storms slammed parts of the South and Midwest creating even more work opportunities for volunteers.

No one knows exactly how many disaster junkies are active in the United States, but the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster says a core group of around 300 people travel the country at least six months out of each year performing such work. Read More