Working in his Harlem apartment, former Minnesotan Peter Kerre coordinates help for tornado-struck Minneapolis.
In the wake of Sunday's twister, one Facebook page quickly emerged as the go-to place for all things Minneapolis tornado. Thousands of people have congregated at the North Minneapolis Post Tornado Watch page, erecting a sort of virtual public square to share tips, dispel rumors, report suspicious characters and, most of all, get help to the people who need it quickly.
The unlikely creator behind the website is Peter Kerre, an IT consultant and self-styled tornado-recovery impresario who worked up to 22 hours a day last week updating the website from his apartment just off Broadway Avenue in Harlem, in New York City.
The former Minnesotan went online one hour after the tornado hit to check on his sister and learned that she was safe but that houses on her block had been damaged. What began as a simple request to find help for her neighbors quickly mushroomed, thanks in part to the thousands of people who follow him on Facebook, where he's also known as DJ Xpect, a popular music producer and promoter.
"I didn't expect it to be this way," said a stunned Kerre, speaking from New York on Friday.
Kerre has proven so popular that large organizations like the American Red Cross send him their updates to make sure people see them. No request is too small: A person recently wanted to find the nearest commercial dryers, and within 10 minutes, seven answers had been submitted by Kerre's other readers.
Kerre said someone else wrote in to report that a woman on a tornado-ravaged block had three disabled children at home who hadn't eaten. Within 20 minutes, someone was at her door with food, he said.
"A lot of people are watching that page," said Jasmine Omorogbe, who works just a few blocks from where the tornado passed over W. Broadway. "It's instant response."
She got three volunteers in minutes, she said, after using Kerre's page to ask for help passing out food at her nonprofit agency. Told that the man who coordinated the help lives 1,200 miles away, Omorogbe was stunned.
"Really?" she said. "Oh my goodness. He's not even here!"
Peter Kerre's resource page: sites.google.com/site/mplstornado
Twitter feed: @mplstornado
The North Minneapolis Tornado Watch Facebook page: www.facebook.com/mplstornado
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747