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 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

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 or join our blog at