Monday, May 23, 2011 — Just hours after a series of devastating tornadoes swept through the Midwest last night, the American Red Cross opened shelters in Missouri and Minnesota to help those whose homes were damaged or destroyed.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with those who lost loved ones or have suffered through these deadly storms,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “The Red Cross already has people on the ground to help in these communities, and we have more on the way today.”The American Red Cross opened a shelter in hard-hit Joplin, Missouri, shortly after the tornado struck on Sunday. That shelter, located at Missouri Southern State University, had approximately 110 people on Sunday night and can hold up to 1,000 people. …The Red Cross also opened a shelter in Minneapolis, where 200 people spent the night following the tornadoes there.
Currently, hundreds of relief supplies are being moved from Red Cross warehouses to Joplin and other affected areas. These supplies include comfort kits, tarps, coolers, rakes and other cleanup supplies. The Red Cross is also sending in additional staff, concentrating particularly on trained health and mental health workers.
The American Red Cross continues to respond to flooding along the Mississippi River and areas of the South where devastating tornadoes recently destroyed entire communities.
- There have been 25 large Red Cross relief operations in 20 states since March 31, including wildfires in Texas, tornadoes across much of the South, and flooding along major waterways including the current Mississippi River flooding.
- More than 8,800 Red Cross workers have responded since March 31, helping people whose lives have been changed forever by these disasters.
- The Red Cross has opened hundreds of shelters, served more than 1.8 million meals and snacks as well as handed out more than one million relief items like tarps, gloves, coolers and brooms to thousands of people in need.
- More than 2,100 Red Cross workers continue to help people along the Mississippi River and in areas across the south where tornadoes wiped out entire communities.
The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $31 million responding to the recent disasters, and has received $27.6 million in pledges and contributions for those operations.
Today, Monday, 23, marks the beginning of Hurricane Preparedness Week. The Red Cross urges preparedness as over 35 million Americans live in areas threatened by Atlantic hurricanes, including Atlanta.
Steps you can take now include:
1. Build a disaster supply kit or check the kit you prepared last year. Include a three-day supply of water and ready-to-eat, non-perishable foods. Don’t forget a manual can opener, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries. Your kit should also have a first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription medications, and copies of important documents.
2. Prepare a personal disaster and evacuation plan. Identify multiple routes you could take in the event of an evacuation. Choose two meeting places—one near your home, and one outside your area—in case you can’t return home. Make plans for your pets. Select an out-of-area emergency contact person and make sure everyone in your family has this person’s contact information.
3. Be informed. Know what a hurricane WATCH or WARNING means.
A hurricane WATCH means that hurricane conditions are possible within the specified area. If one is issued:
- Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, hanging plants, bicycles, toys and garden tools. Anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
- Cover windows with storm shutters or pre-cut plywood.
- If time permits, and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture or move it to a higher floor to protect it from flooding.
- Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
- Check your disaster supply kit to make sure items have not expired.
- Pay attention to local television or radio weather updates.
A hurricane WARNING means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area. If one is issued:
- Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so.
- Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
- Do NOT use open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
- If power is lost, turn off appliances to reduce damage from a power surge when electricity is restored.
Get more information on how to prepare for the 2011 hurricane season.
Also, National put together this great infographic on what the Red Cross is doing throughout disaster areas of the 2011 severe weather season: