Picking Up Pieces after Midwest Tornado Outbreak

The American Red Cross continues to help people across the Midwest after the weekend’s devastating tornadoes.

In Oklahoma alone, the Red Cross estimates that more than 600 homes were affected by this weekend’s tornadoes, including 87 homes that were destroyed and 49 sustaining major damage. Another area hit hard is Thurman, Iowa, where FEMA reports 75 percent of the town sustained damage.

Red Cross disaster teams are operating shelters, providing meals and distributing relief supplies throughout the affected communities. The Red Cross is also moving additional relief supplies into the tornado-stricken areas, including comfort kits, tarps, coolers, rakes and other cleanup supplies.


Many of the Red Cross responders are volunteers. It was a busy weekend in Iowa as they helped in communities hit by the tornadoes, and also responded to large fires and other severe weather. The weekend began with volunteers helping people affected by a large apartment building fire in Des Moines. Tornadoes slammed into the Thurman and Creston areas Saturday. By Sunday morning, volunteers were on the scene supporting firefighters responding to a multiple business fire in Titonka.

After the tornadoes struck in Thurman and Creston, volunteers opened two shelters, activated three mobile feeding trucks, and began damage assessment. Red Cross volunteers served more than 1,650 meals and snacks Sunday and provided emotional support for clients.

Red Cross volunteers also responded to severe weather damage in Sioux City, Des Moines, Knoxville, Council Bluffs and Keokuk County. Most of the cases reported were wind and tree damage to homes. In Titonka, volunteers served 250 meals to firefighters battling a multi-business fire. 

“There were a significant number of disaster-related incidents this weekend which affected many people’s lives here in Iowa,” said Leslie Schaffer, Red Cross spokesperson. “Our volunteers have really worked tirelessly to make sure people had a safe place to stay, food to eat and help getting their lives back on track. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the storms and fires this weekend, not only here but across the country.”


The Red Cross reminds people who live in the tornado-damaged areas that they should stay out of damaged buildings. Other safety steps include:

  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes when examining homes for damage.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
  • Use battery-­powered flashlights when examining buildings—do NOT use candles.
  • If someone notices a gas smell or hears a hissing noise, they should open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly. They should also call the gas company or fire department.
  • Keep animals under control.
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.


People can help those affected by disasters like these tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Consider making a donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Contributions enable the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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