Tornadoes, power outages, extreme heat and an explosion: how Red Cross ‘helped our communities’

Story and photos by Justin Kern, American Red Cross

Elizabeth Arnold forked into another bite of spaghetti in red sauce Tuesday afternoon in the cafeteria at Menominee Tribal School in Neopit. Just moments before, Arnold and others eating in the lunch room applauded at the announcement by officials that power had been fully restored for the first time since Friday’s wild storms.

Elizabeth Arnold Laurel Russ Tribal School meal select July 23 2019

American Red Cross volunteers Laurel Cooper, left, and Russ Van Skike serve up a warm, tasty meal of pasta to Elizabeth Arnold on Tuesday in Neopit.

“This is the first warm meal I’ve had since Friday,” Arnold said between bites of pasta.

The American Red Cross partnered with Salvation Army and leaders from the Menominee Nation and Menominee County to serve the lunch for dozens of families on Tuesday. The groups also provided information on power outage preparedness and dealing with food spoilage. It was part of an ongoing, statewide response by the Red Cross, which kicked off in earnest with an explosion in Madison on Friday morning and then continued into the week following thunderstorms, hail, small tornadoes and extreme heat that blasted across Wisconsin.

The Red Cross has established, partnered with or supported approximately 14 reception centers – located along the path of storms and destruction from Neopit to Mishicot, from Appleton to Waupaca, and from Madison to Balsam Lake – for residents in need of water, snacks, power and sometimes meals and showers. Through Tuesday afternoon, the Red Cross had provided nearly 1,400 hot and pre-packaged meals along with 570 cases of water across the state. Operations have also been set up to help with sheltering of clean-up partners like Team Rubicon in Langlade County and canteening for search and rescue teams in Menominee County. From Friday into Saturday, volunteers ran a cooling shelter at the Alliant Energy Center as the city of Madison dealt with a power station explosion that knocked out electricity during the brunt of a heat wave. Roles at Red Cross have been predominately run by a team of approximately 50 volunteers. Gov. Tony Evers has declared a State of Emergency from the storms. In partnership with county, state and tribal leaders, the Red Cross remains committed to bringing immediate needs and resources to residents affected by this devastating wave of storms.

From bottom right Emmeretta Corn Chantel Alveshive Kewascum Rosie Ricky Lee Stalla Joseph Tribal School July 2019

The whole family shares a laugh at youthful antics Tuesday during a lunch served at Menominee Tribal School. Pictured are, from bottom right, Emmeretta Corn, Chantel Alveshive, Kewascum, 4, Rosie, 3, Ricky Lee, 8, Stalla, 2, and Joseph, 4. 

After her meal, Arnold, a Menominee County board supervisor, loaded up extra meals into her truck to take to neighbors in Keshena also dealing with outages and unable to make the Tuesday lunch service. She turned to Red Cross volunteers: “Thank you for everything. You really helped our communities out.”

Elsewhere on Tuesday, remnants of sheer winds and some of the verified tornadoes remained very present, like in Elderon, where trees were pulled from the ground with densely exposed roots and earth, and in Knowlton, where barn siding was ripped off and coiled across properties. At the fire department in Rosholt, volunteers have kept the doors open 24 hours for people in need of water, showers and somewhere to plug in. Here, the Red Cross has played a support role with water while keeping in contact with Portage County officials on immediate needs. Rosholt F.D. Chief Greg Michelkamp said the department generator had been cranking full-time since Saturday and that he hoped his neighbors would have the lights back on soon, for risk of longer term needs like sheltering or mass feeding.


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In Appleton on Monday, one of two reception center sites operated from a community room at the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department. There, a family of three recharged phones and contacted family via text and social media. KaZoua Lee scrolled through Facebook and said it was nice to have a place to plug back in and “let people know” they were OK, even without power for a few days. The three listened as a neighbor shared her stories of the storm and subsequent outage while her phone juiced up. Volunteer Sharon Holt of Combined Locks said the stories were typical from the more than 150 people who paced in and out of the center since Sunday morning.

Knowlton barn siding tornado July 2019

A confirmed tornado from weekend storms peeled off siding from this barn in Knowlton, Wisc.

Blocks from the Appleton site, mangled trees lined residential neighborhoods on either side of Highway 47, especially around the Erb Park area. City crews and electric company line workers were always within view or earshot. Neighbors likened this damage to the storms and weak tornados in 2016. David Williams, a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer with the Red Cross, was himself still running off a neighbor’s generator as he cleared away a smashed fence and broken tree limbs. Williams said he and his mother were lucky to have such community support.

“A lot of damage, but we’ll be alright,” Williams said.

Red Cross will continue to partner with local and state agencies in the days and weeks ahead as our neighbors continue their recovery.

Your generosity enables the Red Cross to mobilize support to people in need, up the street and across the county. Consider a donation to support volunteers and resources for people affected by a disaster. Click here to take action.

Thanks to Great Partners Red Cross is Prepared

May 29, 2012 to support Wisconsin and Michigan bordering communities relief efforts, American Red Cross Chapters throughout Wisconsin received 11 Briggs & Stratton generators and 13 pressure washers as part of a large donation to support the organization preparedness and response to disasters and emergencies.

Briggs & Stratton donated generator being used to power our Appleton Red Cross office.

Briggs & Stratton donated generator being used to power our Appleton Red Cross office.

Today we are putting that donation to good use. The American Red Cross is not immune from disasters. Our Appleton office, located at 1302 E. Wisconsin Ave, was impacted by the Northeast Storms and lost power early this morning and is currently still without power at 1:00pm today.

Staging area at the Appleton office for our feeding operation.

Staging area at the Appleton office for our feeding operation.

Thanks to the generosity of Briggs & Stratton we are able to power our Appleton office by generator so we are able to use this facility as a central hub in coordinating our disaster efforts across Northeast Wisconsin. This storm is very wide spread including the cities of Manitowoc, De Pere, Green Leaf, Wrightstown, Appleton, New London, Freedom, Hortonville and many other communities. Having a functional central office location is critical in being able to respond to the needs of those impacted.

The Briggs & Stratton gift is not only helping Wisconsin and the Michigan boarder communities be prepared but also across our nation.

The donation by Briggs & Stratton included 847 generators and 483 pressure washers to Red Cross chapters in disaster-prone locations across the United States and Puerto Rico. The generators can supply power at disaster shelters and service centers during relief operations and even power devices within our chapter’s offices. The pressure washers will ensure a high level of cleanliness for washing cots, food containers and other cleaning projects.

You can read the full story of the Briggs & Stratton donation by clicking  HERE .

My Power is Out…..

By Jody Weyers, Volunteer & Communications Director

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Roughly 64,000 people were without power as they woke up this morning in Northeast Wisconsin. I was one of the lucky ones that still had my power. As I got the call this morning at 3:30 am, from Judy Gregory, our emergency services director, I was able to monitor news stories on the internet, make my coffee, and have a quick piece of toast before I ran out the door to head to one of the badly damaged areas, Apple Creek Campgrounds, in Wrightstown.

While I was there surveying the damage of downed trees, and debris strewn about and standing with report, Millaine Wells, WFRV-TV, waiting for our live shot, she asked me, “Just how long is food good for in your refrigerator and freezer during a power outage?” She went on to tell me that where she lived, she did not have power this am, and still did not know if she did at 6:30 am today.

I was slightly embarrassed to say, I did not know the answer, but I did look it up in online once I got back to my office in Green Bay (we did have power) and if I don’t know I am many of those 64,000 people do not know either?

Food Safety Tips:

Perishable foods including milk, meat and eggs should not be stored above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you don’t need to be concerned, but you should know how to save your food when the refrigerator is out for longer periods of time. Being prepared can help. By planning ahead, you can save your perishables and safeguard your family’s health.

Go to: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/food-safety for additional food safety tips. Now you and I both know!

Remember, if you or a family member was impacted and displaced from the storm, to contact your local Red Cross at 920-468-8535 to see where we might have shelters open, or to receive emergency assistance.

Red Cross opens service center for storm victims in Appleton

APPLETON Saturday, 03 Sep 2011, 9:39 PM CDT Fox 11

Due to the power outage, the American Red Cross said it now has a service center open at Appleton West High School at 610 N. Badger Avenue, Appleton.

The Red Cross is staffing the facility until 11:00p.m.

Red Cross officials say people affected by the outages are invited to recharge their electronic devices, take showers (please bring towel/toiletries), they will be given snacks, water, hot coffee and overall information.

If the need for overnight accommodations exists, the Red Cross asks you arrive by 11:00p.m. and/or call 920-231-3590.

The agency will provide a cot, blankets, pillow and breakfast if the need exists. Individuals should bring their medications, personal comfort items, etc.

The Red Cross has provided the following FAQ for storm victims:

Q. I have no power. Is there anything I should do if I’m using a generator?

A. Make sure you set the generator up outside, not in your house, basement or garage. Place the unit away from doors, windows and vents. You don’t want the carbon monoxide to come indoors. When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to your home’s electrical system.

Q. My power has been out. What should I do about my food?

A. Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out! Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food ¬borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking. If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it. If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.

Q. How can the American people help?

A. The best way to help is to make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief, which supports our work in response to disasters like hurricanes and floods, as well as countless crises at home and around the world. People can donate to Red Cross disaster relief by going to redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). They can also text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation with their mobile phone. 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.