Red Cross Launches Huge Tornado Relief Response

Shelters open in 11 states to help people in the path of the storms

The American Red Crosshas launched a large relief operation across 11 states to help people affected by yesterday’s devastating tornado outbreak in the South and Midwest. Weather experts reported as many as 95 confirmed tornadoes touched down, destroying communities from the Great Lakes to the Southeast.

Harrisburg, IL resident, Cindy Fark, receives a hug from a Red Cross Disaster volunteer, Ann Corbin after describing the tornado coming through her neighborhood. Photo Credit: Tammie Pech/American Red Cross

“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by this week’s severe storms,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Disaster Services. “Our top priorities right now are making sure people have a safe place to stay, a warm meal and a shoulder to lean on as they begin to clean up their neighborhoods. The Red Cross is also working closely with our government and community partners to make sure everyone gets the help they need.”Friday night, the Red Cross opened or supported 22 shelters in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Across the affected states, trained Red Cross disaster workers are mobilizing to begin feeding operations and distribution of relief supplies. Red Cross health services and mental health workers also will be out in neighborhoods help people cope with what they’ve seen and experienced. And damage assessment teams will also help the Red Cross and our partners discover the full scope of the damage.

If someone would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes and floods, they can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting, 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 their local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Locate a shelter. People can find Red Cross shelters by contacting local emergency officials, visiting, or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). iPhone users can download a free Red Cross shelter view app from the app store.

Those affected can let loved ones know they are safe by registering on the secure Red Cross Safe and Well website, where they can also update their Facebook and Twitter status. If you don’t have computer access, you can also register by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Loved ones outside the disaster area can use Safe and Well to find information about loved ones in the affected areas by using a pre-disaster phone number or complete address. Smart phone users can visit and click on the “List Yourself as Safe and Well” or “Search for friends and family” link.

Follow safety steps. As people begin to deal with the aftermath of the tornadoes, the Red Cross reminds people they should return to their neighborhood only when officials say it is safe to do so. They should also:

  • Stay out of damaged buildings and immediately report any fallen power lines or broken gas lines to the utility companies.
  • Use flashlights, not candles when examining buildings. If someone smells gas or hears a hissing noise, they should open a window, get everyone out of the building immediately and call the gas company or fire department.

More tornado safety information is available on the Preparedness Section of the Red Cross website.

You can help people affected by disasters like floods and tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Local volunteers continue work in South

There are 23 volunteers from NE WI Region

Volunteers from Northeast Wisconsin are still hard at work assisting tornado victims in the south.

Click on the photo to see the video of this story

That severe weather killed hundreds of people and split up families.

But thanks to local Wisconsin Red Cross workers, they are helping to bring people together to get on with their lives.

Slowly yet surely, residents of Tuscaloosa, Alabama are picking up the shattered pieces.

More than a week after a devastating tornado as many as 25 people were still unaccounted for.

“Going through Tuscaloosa, the hardest hit area, it looks like a bomb went off in parts of the city and there’s nothing left,” said Nick Cluppert, NE Wisconsin Region Red Cross Emergency Management Services Manager assisting in the South.

Cluppert, from Oshkosh, says there have also been signs of hope. He says the American Red Cross has helped to re-connect more than a thousand people with relatives and friends.

The effort is through the Red Cross, safe and well program.

“We actually had to do a home visit to try to locate somebody and we were able to find them,” Cluppert explained. “The family member that had called looking for this individual wasn’t sure if they were in effected area or not, but they couldn’t get a hold of them, so we were able to locate them and report back they were okay.”

Cluppert is among 23 Red Cross volunteers from Northeast Wisconsin currently assisting in the relief efforts down south.

But as the flooding worsens in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, officials say they’ve had to switch gears for volunteers still looking to help.

“On Friday as well as Saturday, we sent 3 individuals down, all 3 went to Tennessee and a husband and wife couple, they actually drove down our Emergency Response vehicle,” explained Red Cross Lakeland Chapter Communications Director, Jody Weyers.

And the severe spring weather has taken a toll on resources.

Last year, the American Red Cross responded to nearly 30 large disasters between March and June.

However, in the past 39 days, the Red Cross has launched 20 separate relief operations nationwide and those include help from local volunteers.

“You kind of get one under control and then something else happens,” Weyers said. “You send individuals out, but disasters don’t stop in your own community.”

And as the need grows, Weyers expects the volunteers to be gone two to three weeks at a time.

Red Cross Responds After Tornadoes, Wildfires Leave Devastation Across The South

Editorial note: Call (202) 303-5551 to speak with an American Red Cross spokesperson on the groundVisit the Red Cross Disaster Online Newsroom for response information, including photos, audio, and press releases.

Residents wait to receive meals from an Emergency Response Vehicle in Raleigh, NC.

 WASHINGTON, April 18, 2011 – The American Red Cross is working around the clock to provide relief to people affected by the deadly tornadoes and scorching wildfires that left a path of destruction in six states across the south over the weekend.

Strong tornadoes ripped homes off their foundations, destroyed businesses and schools, overturned cars and buses, uprooted trees and downed power lines in Oklahoma, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. In North Carolina alone, preliminary disaster assessments show almost 500 homes destroyed and more than 1,000 damaged. Some of the hardest hit areas are still inaccessible, and officials say that many more than 1,000 families will be homeless in the state.

Red Cross workers sheltered more than 500 people over the weekend, served meals throughout the affected neighborhoods, and provided personal hygiene items and supplies to help as the clean-up begins. With government officials reporting more than 40 deaths from the tornadoes, Red Cross disaster mental health workers are available to help people cope with the aftermath. Red Cross chapters throughout the south are deploying trained disaster teams into the area and more than 25 Red Cross emergency response vehicles are in hard-hitNorth Carolina, or on their way to the state.

Red Cross workers make their way through devastated neighborhoods throughout West Texas. Photo Credit: Phil Beckman/American Red Cross

In Texas, wildfires have spread across more than 700,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing people to leave their neighborhoods. Red Cross disaster workers have opened shelters and are feeding those displaced by the fires. As families return to their neighborhoods, Red Cross teams are providing them with food and water. The Red Cross is also assisting those who have lost their homes to the fires, providing them with food, clothing and other necessities.

“Families have lost everything, and we are doing what we can to help them as they figure out what’s next,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “We’ll continue to help them in the weeks ahead as they try to get back on their feet.”

Since the end of March, the Red Cross has offered relief to people affected by 35 disasters in 20 states. The Red Cross is able to respond quickly with the help of corporations who are members of the organization’s Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP). ADGP members pledge donations on an ongoing basis to allow the Red Cross to pre-position supplies and be ready to take immediate action when disasters occur.

ADGP members include 3M, Altria, Aon, Cisco Foundation, ConAgra Foods, Darden Restaurants, Inc., Dr Pepper Snapple Group, FedEx Corporation, GE Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation, John Deere Foundation, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Kraft Foods, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Merck, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide Insurance Foundation,  Northrop Grumman, Ryder Charitable Foundation, Southwest Airlines, State Farm, State Street Foundation, Target,  The TJX Companies, Inc., UnitedHealthcare, UPS and Walmart.

 The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help people affected by disasters like these tornadoes and wildfires. You can help by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross,P.O. Box 37243,Washington,DC20013.

 About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at

Fast Facts: Spring Storms Response

The following information shows our total service delivery across Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma since the beginning of the severe weather events in April:

  • Shelters opened: 63
  • Shelter Overnight Stays: 9,608
  • Clean up kits:  23,715
  • Comfort kits: 12,344
  • Meals served: 189,867
  • Snacks served: 254,754
  • Emergency Response Vehicles on the ground: 113
  • Mental Health Consultations: 10,488
  • Health Services Consultations: 8,351
  • 1-866-GET-INFO calls: 5,253
  • Total Red Cross Workers: 4,674 (4,287 volunteers)

Stats as of May 27, 2010