“I’ve Never Been So Scared”: Early Reflections on Dane County Flooding

Story by Michele Maki, American Red Cross; Photos by Justin Kern, American Red Cross

“Now I know what it’s like to be in a hurricane.”

Ashley Repp from Mazomanie, Wisconsin, recounted her harrowing rescue while visiting her neighbor in the local Red Cross shelter at Mazomanie Elementary School.

 

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A mother and daughter watch flood waters consume streets near their home on Tuesday in Mazomanie.

“I was absolutely terrified. The water was rushing in so fast!,” Repp shared.

Repp and her neighbors were rescued early Tuesday morning when heavy rains sent a flash flood crashing through her town of Mazomanie, and the surrounding communities of Cross Plains and parts of the Madison area.

“The rains started Monday, but by early Tuesday, I saw the streets starting to flood. I came outside about 5:30 in the morning and the waters were already rising. I looked across the street to the apartment building that sits a bit lower and saw the bottom floors under water.”

Ashley stopped momentarily to share the pictures she took. The sight showed a small town under a deluge. A record-breaking rainfall on Sunday and Monday swelled rivers, overran into backyards, submerged cars, basements, businesses.

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Red Cross volunteer Cindy Brown, right, assists a client at a shelter at Madison West H.S. on Friday morning. 

Red Cross opened shelters in Mazomanie (314 Anne St.) and Madison (at West H.S., 30 Ash St.), as well as Cross Plains (at Glacier Creek Middle School, since closed). Other resources include mobile and fixed distribution of clean-up kits across Dane County, and, with dozens of community partners and government agencies, multi-agency resource centers in Mazomanie (on Friday, 314 Anne St.) and Middleton (on Saturday at Blackhawk Church, 9620 Brader Way). (Additional updates are available here from Dane County Emergency Management.)

Back at the shelter in Mazomanie, Ashley continued her story. She said that within 20 mins, her stairwell was flooding. “Water came rushing in, and the fire department came by and told us to grab our stuff and get out. I don’t even remember much, except that the water was rushing in so fast-it was hard to stand and keep my balance. I’ve never been so scared in my life!”

The rescue workers assisted Ashley and her neighbors into rafts and then steadied it by walking it through the flood waters, and up to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) building.

“Folks from all over our community were there to give us clothing and dry out what we had been wearing, which was soaked.”

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On Thursday, a family in Mazomanie cleans up from initial flooding and places sandbags outside their house for the possibility of more water.

When asked how long all this took, Ashley’s face become very somber: “You know … I have no idea. Time just ran into itself … I have no idea at all.  It was about 7 that night before we got settled in. I thought it must be later than that, but … I don’t know.”

Her voice trailed off, she paused and then turned and said, “I’m just so thankful we all got out. Everyone here, the community, the Red Cross, everyone helped us feel safe. Folks offered clothes, food … the whole community pulled together to help all of us.”

When asked whether she would be staying here, at the Red Cross shelter, Ashley replied, “No, I’m lucky. I have a place to stay, but my neighbor doesn’t, so I’m glad you’re here to help her, I was worried.”

Ashley had come by the shelter to check in on her neighbor: “She’s being well cared for, thank you. Thank you, Mazomanie and thank you, Red Cross!”

Follow American Red Cross of Wisconsin on Twitter and Facebook for breaking updates on shelters and other resources. For access to resources for this ongoing flooding situation, dial 2-1-1.

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“Hey, Don’t Freak Out!”

 

For Denise Parker hitting ‘send’ to her husband Anthony Parker, who is stationed in Kodiak, Alaska and serving in the US Coast Guard, was a scary proposition. Upon opening his email, he knew the next words would not be good. Thankfully, seven days after the Northern Wisconsin floods, he can chuckle about it “that’s the best she could do?” he smiled a sheepish grin knowing his wife experienced a harrowing experience and her life may have been in danger. Through the support of the American Red Cross, Services to Armed Forces Emergency Communications program, he was by her side as the reality of several feet of water in their home set in.

On July 11th, more than a foot of rain fell with several inches of rain in just over an hour. The babbling streams turned into torrent rivers, washing away roads and scaring the landscape adjacent to majestic Lake Superior.

As the water rose above her ankles, Denise knew she and the pets were in trouble. She called 9-1-1. They traveled three separate routes but could not reach her; they retreated. She felt alone.  Via Facebook, her mother was able to reach a gentleman nearby with a ‘pick-up’ truck. She was rescued, with no time to spare, after she waded through chest deep water. In each hand, she carried a five-pound pet. The Great Dane wanted nothing to do with the water outside and refused to swim so he was left in the home. Her eyes filled with tears as she shared the thought of him drowning as the Marengo River now ran through her home.

Once safe, she sent an email to her husband serving on the USS Alex Haley. Fortunately, the ship was coming into dock.

She also reached out to her local American Red Cross, like she had done twice before to reach her husband serving abroad throughout the course of his career. In each instance, the Red Cross validated the emergency – a father’s illness and her surgery – for the commanders and in each instance; he was granted emergency leave to be with his family.

“Hey, don’t freak out. I’m o.k. that’s what is most important. The house is under water and the rabbits died.”  As he says, “Don’t freak-out is the best she could do? She also didn’t say the water was up-to the steering wheel in my 2010 F-150 truck.”  She retorts, “I could have died last night.” They can smile about it now.

For Red Cross responder, Marilyn Skrivseth, this case struck a similar cord as her first contact with the Red Cross when her brother was serving oversees and the Red Cross made an emergency connection.  At first, she worked with the Parkers on the phone to begin casework.

She also encouraged them to visit the Multi-Agency Resource Center for cleaning supplies, bottled water and to garner referrals for assistance. Upon arrival, they received bottled water, cleaning supplies, bleach and more material goods. What they also received was contacts for a “muck-out” team which helps families remove the water, sludge, drywall and personal items.  Any soft material will be destroyed.  Knowing he has a short emergency leave, the race is on to recover from this disaster. Thankfully, due to the Red Cross support, they are not alone.

By: Barbara Behling

Photos: Marilyn Janke

 

Wisconsin Floods — Red Cross Responds

Heavy rains caused flooding throughout Northern Wisconsin earlier this week. Since then, it’s been a flurry of flood relief activities with the Northwest Wisconsin Chapter leading the charge. Red Cross services have included providing clean up supplies, bottled water and connecting one-on-one with affected families who need shelter, health or other immediate disaster relief. An Incident Integrated Care & Condolence Team is also working with the families of the three fatalities.

Today, Red Cross workers are delivering clean-up kits (bucket, mop, broom, squeegee, gloves, bleach, brush, etc.) to the following locations:

  • Methodist Church, Hayward – 35 kits and Flood Recovery  Booklets
  • Minong, Town Hall, Washburn – 50 clean-up kits and Flood Recovery Booklets
  • County Health & Human Services, Ashland – 40 additional Clean-up kits, 60 cases of water, flathead shovels, garbage bags, gloves (Yesterday, 37 Clean-up kits, bleach, bottled water, perishable food and Flood Recovery Booklets.)

All locations listed above are coordinating distribution to the public.

As of Thursday evening, our Client Casework team met one-on-one with individuals/families affected by flooding and had opened 24 cases, with the majority being on the Bad River Reservation in Ashland County. Case work will continue through this weekend and by appointment should contact the Red Cross at 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 800-236-8680.

The Red Cross encourages residents to stay safe by following safety tips:

  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
  • Dry-out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building.
  • When in doubt, take it out! Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent/bleach and water.
  • Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  • Turn around, don’t drown. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.

We are greatly appreciative of Premium Waters and Kwik Trip who both donated pallets of water.

The best ways for you to help is by supporting our efforts with a financial gift or volunteering your time. We rely on volunteers to provide humanitarian relief during times of disaster and we’ll get you trained before the next disaster strikes.   To learn more, visit http://www.redcross.org/volunteer.

Throughout Wisconsin, we respond to nearly 900 disasters every year. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Click http://www.redcross.org/Wisconsin or call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

 

 

Two States + Two Disasters = One Team

Mary Gagnon

Mary Gagnon

For six non-stop weeks, the Texas weather was dreadful. Residents were experiencing multiple tornadoes, large hail, heavy rainfall and flooding causing the dams to breach. More than 100 counties were affected by this treacherous weather. (Wisconsin only has 72-counties; so this was a massive area) American Red Cross chapters throughout Texas helped residents affected by opening 60 shelters, served more than 350,000 meals and snacks and engaged 2,300 trained Red Cross responders. Wisconsin provided 42 responders; this is the first-hand story of our own Mary Gagnon.

 

On June 15, the Red Cross asked my husband Dean and I to deploy to Houston, Texas to help with disaster relief. Both of us volunteer with the Red Cross and reside in Texas AND Wisconsin. We arrived on the 16th and were reminded immediately of the heat and humidity that sends us back north each spring.

After a week of providing shelter and food near Houston, we were reassigned to the Rio Grande Valley, near the tip of Texas. Coincidentally, this general area is where we live during the winter. And our ‘hometown’ Red Cross Chapter there became headquarters.Flooded road, Edinburg, TX

There were so many people with so few personal resources. Residents told us of flood waters three feet deep in their homes and side streets were impassable for days. When we found an unflooded driveway, we parked the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), which contained water, food and hygiene kits. There, we asked people to phone neighbors down the street to let them know we were there to help. Invariably, word travelled fast, and people lined-up to receive what they needed and wanted: hot food, bottled water, Clorox, shovels and mosquito repellant.

Cruz Roja at Edinburg shelter

When there were still items remaining in the ERV, which is a large ambulance sized vehicle so we could haul large amounts of supplies, we drove to a nearby street and started the process again.

Steve Stringer with Cruz Roja in Edinburg-2

The American Red Cross increased its staffing resources when Cruz Roja Mexicana (Mexican Red Cross) arrived. As the flooding decreased and people could get out of their homes, the Cruz Roja site provided necessary cleaning materials and, just as importantly, the ability to respond in Spanish to needs and stories provided by those flooded out of their homes. We felt fortunate to work with Cruz Roja! They understood the community needs; the difficulties of the weather and the support needed to bring back ‘normalcy’ to Hidalgo and Cameron Counties.

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The following week, on our way back to the local Red Cross Chapter to re-fill our ERV with cases of water and clean-up materials, we stopped at a gas station. The search-and-distribute system of helping home owners during the recent Texas floods brought much-needed supplies directly to people considering the scorching 96 degree weather. This system created a need for us to get just a few minutes of rest. An ice cream bar and air conditioning altered my core temperature just enough to make getting back on the road OK. But it was the unexpected ‘coolness’ of hearing The Spinners singing on the store’s music system that recouped my energy! With only the bathroom mirror watching, I danced to ‘Rubber Band Man’ with all of my best ‘60s and 70s moves.

And Coolness was achieved.

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Upon returning to Wisconsin for the ‘summer’ they were deployed to Columbus, Wisconsin to open an evacuation center/shelter for people affected by the July 13th 90-mile per hour winds. Two (states) plus two (disasters) really can equal ONE RED CROSS. To begin your own Red Cross adventure, please check here for volunteer opportunities.

Colorado Floods – Telling our Story: Part 1

By Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director

How do I even start to share about this amazing journey I have been on for the past week? I will start from the beginning. I landed in Denver, Colorado, Sunday, Sept 15 around 12:30 pm.  I pick up my rental car and called Hector Emanuel, the photographer, I would be paired with for the next week, to see where he was at.

Ran into many detours on my way to Greely, Colorado.

Ran into many detours on my way to Greely, Colorado.

He, and his assistant Liz Preovolos, were at a Red Cross shelter in Greely, Colorado. I looked at my gps, and it was about an hour drive. Upon my arrival in Denver, it was a very gray, rainy and cold day. I headed off to Greely, and as I got closer, it was harder and harder to get there. I stop at a local gas station 10 miles from Greely, and ask how to get there.  With roads washed out, and/or flooded, it was almost impossible. The store clerk, providing me some alternative routes, and thanked me for my work. I had on my Red Cross hat and sweatshirt, and I am once again reminded of the power of the Red Cross symbol. The clerk, comes out from behind the counter, and asks “Can I give you a hug?” Of course, I say yes.

I finally make it to the City of Greely Recreation Center, after many detours. I go inside and there is a flurry of activity. I meet up with Hector and Liz, who arrived the day before, and have spent most of the day at the shelter. They give me a tour of the facility, I talked with some of the volunteers, and clients, and then we head back to our home base in Loveland, Colorado for the night.

This would be the start of our routine for the week. Hector, would go to his room to look at his pictures from the day, and pick the best 25-30 photos to send to American Red Cross National Headquarters. The three of us would meet in the hotel lounge, and we would go over photo release forms, identify the people in each picture, and write the caption for each photo to share their story.

Why are we doing this you ask? These photos and stories paint a picture of how the American Red Cross is assisting the people of Colorado. We are bringing a face to the American people, so when people donate, they know who and how they are helping. We are telling our story!

Monday, September 16 –

The three of us meet down in the hotel lounge for breakfast and we make our game plan for the day. We focus on the Red Cross shelters that are set up to house the many people displaced. Sunday night there was 1,000 people that stayed in 24 different shelters across Colorado.

First Stop, Thompson School District Building, in Loveland, Colorado.  We met a family who had not one, not two, but three disasters displace them from their homes, over the past six months. The Oft family moved from Sallisaw, Oklahoma, after two tornadoes ripped through their town and damaged their home. They moved to Drake, CO to be closer to family. They barely had enough time to evacuate as the flood waters started  rise over the roads. Charlsey Oft said, “When you have kids, you can’t think of the bad stuff, you have to carry on and we are thankful for the goodness of others.”

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross Shelter at Thompson School, Loveland, CO. Red Cross Health Services worker Pam Robinson, RN, of Masonville, Colorado, hugs Adalynn Oft, 4, of Drake, Colorado, as her sister, Zoee, 1, looks on and her mother Charlsey, share their story.  Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross Shelter at Thompson School District Building, Loveland, CO. Red Cross Health Services worker Pam Robinson, RN, of Masonville, Colorado, hugs Adalynn Oft, 4, of Drake, Colorado, as her sister, Zoee, 1, looks on and her mother Charlsey, shares their story. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

The second shelter we visited was Niwot High School, in Niwot, Colorado. The people at this shelter were airlifted to safety because of the roads being washed out and they were not able to get out by vehicle.  This is were we met Donna Hitz, 81 from Lyons, Colorado.  She had such a good spirit and attitude.  I was cracking up laughing because she was telling me about how handsome the pilots were in their uniform, and she would do it all over again for a ride with them.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Niwot High School, Niwot, Colorado. Donna Hitz, 81, of Lyons, Colorado, shares with Red Cross worker Jody Weyers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, her experience of being airlifted by a helicopter from her property to safety. Her neighbors knocked on her door to alert her to the evacuation and the next thing she knew, a helicopter was landing in her pasture. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

The third shelter we went to was the YMCA of Boulder Valley, in Boulder, Colorado.  There was a lot of activity at this shelter, because business did not shut down for the YMCA, so you had their customers coming to workout, among all the people displaced. This is were we met Esther Peter, who had such a beautiful soul and strength about her. She and her five sisters, brother and mom, evacuated to the Boulder shelter, after water started running into their apartment building. They were able to grab a few items, important documents and that was it. Originally from South Sudan, they moved to Kenya. After enduring a lifetime of hardships in a country engaged in armed conflict, she came to the United States to build a better life with her family. Esther had to leave her two young daughters with family in Kenya, with hopes to reunite in Boulder as soon as possible.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at the YMCA, Boulder, Colorado. Esther Peter, of Boulder, Colorado, shares her heroic story with Dr. Kathy Palakow, Psy.D., LPC, Red Cross Mental Health Worker of Boulder, CO. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Our final shelter of the day we visited was Mead High School, in Longmont, Colorado. Hector and Liz were here the day before, and talked with many families, and we wanted to go back to see how some of them were doing. At this point in the disaster operation, some of these families have been in a shelter for 4-5 days and wanted to go home, but some didn’t have a home to go back to. To create some normalcy for the children, some of the volunteers took the children outside on the football field to play with balls, run around, and just be kids! It was great to hear their laughter, and for one small moment, they were able to forget about everything going on around them.

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Mead High School, Mead, CO. Red Cross Shelter Manager, Ruth “Max” Bourke, of Ault, Colorado, plays catch with JoAnn Hammond, 5, of Del Camino, Colorado. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Monday, September 16, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Mead High School, Longmont, Colorado. Red Cross Shelter Manager, Ruth “Max” Bourke, of Ault, Colorado, plays catch with JoAnn Hammond, 5, of Del Camino, Colorado. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Tuesday, September 17

Red Cross Northern Operations Headquarters at The Ranch-Larimer County Fairgrounds, Loveland, Colorado.

Red Cross Northern Operations Headquarters at The Ranch-Larimer County Fairgrounds, Loveland, Colorado.

We checked in at the Northern Operation Headquarters, at the Larimer County Fairgrounds, in Loveland, Colorado.  We talked with Mike Cooper, who was in charge of the Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV’s) and the workers who drove the vehicles and where they went each day.  We teamed up with ERV Drivers, Dennis and Dustin, both from Kansas. Their job was to “search and serve” in some of the hard hit areas in Northern Colorado.

We followed behind the ERV in our vehicle, as they went up and down roads and stopping occasionally to see if people needed help. We came across this road closure in Evans, Colorado and discovered, five or six guys trying to clean up their property from the floods. They were blocked in because one way the road was still flooded, and the other end of their road was barricaded.  Dustin and Dennis stopped the ERV, and we provided these families, with cleanup kits (including bleach, gloves, mop, broom, and bucket), hygiene kits(including basic toiletry items), tarps, shovels, and garbage bags. The flood waters rushed into their home, and like so many others, it came in so fast, they barely had time to evacuate. We also let them know that they could get a hot meal, shower, and other needed items at the City of Greely Recreation Center. It felt great to be able to help these people, and provide resources to them, because they felt like they were all alone blocked in on their road.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. 49th St. in Evans, Colorado. American Red Cross emergency response drivers, Dennis Pierce from Louisburg, Kansas and Dustin Dunkin, of Garnett, Kansas handing out supplies to Robert Lujan and Brian Mestas of Evans, Colorado. Bernie Lujan of Evans, Colorado taking a box of supplies including masks, garbage bags, and paper towels to assist with flood relief cleanup to his home. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. 49th St. in Evans, Colorado. American Red Cross emergency response drivers, Dennis Pierce from Louisburg, Kansas and Dustin Dunkin, of Garnett, Kansas handing out supplies to Robert Lujan and Brian Mestas of Evans, Colorado. Bernie Lujan of Evans, Colorado taking a box of supplies including masks, garbage bags, and paper towels to assist with flood relief cleanup to his home. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

In the afternoon, we split from Dennis and Dustin and we headed to a shelter at Timberline Church in Fort Collins This shelter was another place evacuees went to who were rescued off Storm Mountain in Drake, Colorado. While we were there, a bus pulled up, and Jason and Jennifer Morgan, walked off with their three dogs and one cat.  The only road up and down the mountain was washed away, so they had to be evacuated from the mountain by helicopter. They waited as long as they could because they had to leave their nine horses behind.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Timberline Church, Fort Collins, Colorado. Red Cross workers, Jody Weyers, of Green Bay, Wisconsin petting “Ella Beagle” and Larry Fortmuller, of Santa Ana, California holding “Bailey” while their owner, Jennifer Morgan, of Drake Colorado, fills out paper work after being airlifted from Storm Mountain by helicopter. .Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Red Cross shelter at Timberline Church, Fort Collins, Colorado. Red Cross workers, Jody Weyers, of Green Bay, Wisconsin petting “Ella Beagle” and Larry Fortmuller, of Santa Ana, California holding “Bailey” while their owner, Jennifer Morgan, of Drake Colorado, fills out paper work after being airlifted from Storm Mountain by helicopter. Photo by Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross

The people who were rescued by helicopter, were loaded in busses, delivered to this shelter, and if they had family to stay with, they could pick them up here. If they had no place to go, they would register and stay in the shelter. Everyone who came off the bus, Red Cross had them register with our Safe & Well site, so loved ones searching for them would know they are ok. As of Sunday, September 22, 1,588  people had registered themselves safe and well on our site.

To be continued…..

How to Prepare for Flooding

Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground. Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area.

You will likely hear weather forecasters use these terms when floods are predicted in your community:

  • Flood/Flash Flood Watch—Flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area.=
  • Flood/Flash Flood Warning—Flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

Click HERE to learn more about Flood Safety by checking out these safety tips.

Prepare for Spring Storms…… Or Winter Again

Tornado, Flood, and Thunderstorm Season nears.

Be Red Cross Ready – Last year, hurricanes battered the East Coast in less than three months prompting the Red Cross to mount its largest and most expensive response to a natural disaster in the organization’s history.

Thousands of people turned to the media for information on the storms’ paths and where to go for help. With predictions of another busy storm season on the horizon, the American Red Cross invites you to join us for a Preparedness Seminar.

Do this one simple step in being prepared - download one of the many Red Cross Apps to your phone!

Do this one simple step in being prepared – download one of the many Red Cross Apps to your phone!

Who:  Free to the public

What: Be Red Cross Ready– join the American Red Cross for a presentation about preparedness; learn what you can do to be prepared for the upcoming storm season.

When: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Time: 6:00-7:00 pm    

Where: Ripon Public Library

Silver Creek Room

120 Jefferson Street

Ripon, WI 54971

Why: Learn –

  • How you can help be better prepare for the Spring Storms.
  • How the Red Cross helps people following a disaster.
  • How you can tap into Red Cross resource.
  • How you can become a Red Cross volunteer.

For more information on this presentation, or other information on preparedness, please contact Lisa Stanchfield at (920)922-3450, or Lisa.Stanchfield@redcross.org.