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 http://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 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 www.redcross.org, 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 www.redcross.org/safeandwell 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 http://www.redcross.org 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.

Red Cross Responds To Midwest Tornadoes

Shelters open, Red Cross helping to assess damage.

An overview of the "Water Street" neighborhood that search and rescue workers say many residents were rescued or injured by a tornado, in Harrisburg, Illinois. ( Laurie Skrivan, McClatchy-Tribune / February 29, 2012 )

The American Red Cross is helping people across the Midwest after tornadoes slammed into parts of Kansas and Missouri early this morning, injuring dozens of people, destroying buildings and leaving thousands without power. This is the third time tornadoes have devastated parts of Missouri in less than a year. The storm threat continues today with officials warning severe storms will continue in the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys.

One of the areas affected is Branson, Missouri where officials reported some people were trapped in their homes and buildings in the city’s famous theater district are heavily damaged. In Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency for the affected areas southwest of Topeka.

Red Cross workers in Missouri have opened shelters  and are providing meals for displaced residents. Additional workers are fanning out in affected neighborhoods to begin assessing the extent of the tornado damage. . In Kansas, tornadoes damaged homes and search and rescue teams are searching for missing residents in the wreckage. Red Cross chapters are preparing to open shelters and are serving meals to those affected as well as emergency responders.

To find an open Red Cross shelter, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). iPhone users can download a free Red Cross shelter view app from the app store.

With the threat of more storms today, residents should be on the watch for tornado warning signs such as dark, greenish clouds, large hail, a roaring noise, a cloud of debris or funnel clouds. It’s a good idea to secure outside items such as lawn furniture or trash cans, which could be picked up by the wind and injure someone. If a tornado watch is issued, it means tornadoes are possible and people should be ready to act quickly. If a tornado warning is issued, it means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar and people should go under ground immediately to a basement or storm cellar or to an interior room such as a bathroom or closet.

As residents begin to deal with the aftermath of today’s deadly storms, the Red Cross reminds people to stay out of damaged buildings and immediately report any fallen power lines or broken gas lines to the utility companies. If people are out of their homes, they should return to their neighborhood only when officials say it is safe to do so. Other safety steps include:

  • People should use flashlights, not candles, when examining buildings. If someone smells gas or hears a hissing noise, they should open a window and get everyone out of the building immediately and call the gas company or fire department.
  • Check for injuries. If someone is trained, they should provide first aid until emergency responders arrive.
  • People should listen to their local news or NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.

or more information about how to stay safe if tornadoes threaten someone’s community, people can visit the preparedness section of www.redcross.org.

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.