Standing tall in a crisp T-shirt and jeans, retired computer programmer Steve Klapp was upbeat Friday as he recounted his work helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The 51-year-old Cleveland County resident recently spent 17 days leading American Red Cross volunteers from across the nation as they picked up the pieces of a state ransacked by the superstorm.
Klapp, Oklahoma Red Cross' disaster assessment manager, was flown to New Jersey to collect data that revealed which parts of the state needed food, shelter or tools to clear away the debris left by Sandy.
He used a system called reverse batch geocoding.
“We were able to do a house-by-house assessment of the damage that was done and produce reports that led others to provide the necessary relief that people needed,” Klapp said.
Klapp said the task included working 14-hour days and spending three nights in a hotel room with no power or hot water.
“Ninety percent of the state was without power,” he said. “The hurricane dumped a lot of water and did a lot of damage.”
Klapp, who volunteered to help to victims of Hurricane Isaac in August, said he was prepared for what he would encounter in New Jersey.
“We knew it was coming. It occurred exactly as we expected,” he said.
Red Cross volunteers don't think twice about heading into the disaster zone, he said.
“We call it getting hooked here,” Klapp said. “There's no other feeling like being hugged by someone who just wants to thank you. These people have had their lives turned upside-down, and when they see help, it's like they see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
When he returned home to Oklahoma, he slept for two days and spent time with his three Yorkshire terriers.
Ken Garcia, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Central and Western Oklahoma, said 6,000 American Red Cross volunteers from across the nation, including 22 from Oklahoma, helped the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“We are still sending people there,” Garcia said.
“It's getting better,” Klapp added.
How to help
For information on volunteering with the American Red Cross of Central and Western Oklahoma, go to www.