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Tucson man heads to tornado-ravaged Oklahoma to help rebuild

Patrick Wathen will supervise a damage assessment team to help guide reconstruction efforts
Posted at 11:24 PM, Apr 29, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A Tucson man is heading to Oklahoma following the destruction from tornadoes tearing across parts of the Midwest.

Tucsonan Patrick Wathen boarded a flight this afternoon to Oklahoma City on Monday, April 29. Wathen is volunteering with the Red Cross to supervise a damage assessment team.

The team will travel around the affected areas of Oklahoma and review damage done to each property.

His team’s work will be used to guide reconstruction efforts in the region.

“Case workers will come and use that information and try to get people the help they need,” Wathen says. “It’s important that we get in there soon and get our job done quickly, because we sooner we get it done, the faster we can help people.”

Four people were killed and 100 injured across the state of Oklahoma this week as a result of tornado damage.

Wathen signed up to volunteer for two weeks, but says he doesn’t know what to expect at this point. He has volunteered “over a dozen” times for the Red Cross for various disaster response missions, which included hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

A native of Indiana, Wathen says that he’s no stranger to tornadoes. He gives a simple answer when asked why he continues to volunteer to help when disaster strikes.

“It touches the heart,” Wathen says. “If you want your heart touched, volunteer with the Red Cross. It’s fabulous.”

On Tuesday, April 29, Tucsonan Michael Melton will also head to Oklahoma to assess damage in the area.

Mike Sagara, volunteer public information officer at the Red Cross, says that the organization continues to look for more help in assisting with affected areas like Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Those interested in volunteering in the Oklahoma region for the Red Cross can visit their website for more information.

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Joel Foster is a multimedia journalist at KGUN 9 who previously worked as an English teacher in both Boston and the Tucson area. Joel has experience working with web, print and video in the tech, finance, nonprofit and the public sectors. In his off-time, you might catch Joel taking part in Tucson's local comedy scene. Share your story ideas with Joel at joel.foster@kgun9.com, or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram or X.