The American Red Cross is responding across the South and Midwest to help people affected by the massive storm system that has destroyed neighborhoods and left thousands without power.
Red Cross workers opened or supported community shelters in seven states Monday night including Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Virginia. More than 100 people sought refuge in the shelters and many more visited them for meals and information about what help is available. If someone needs to find a shelter, they can contact their local Red Cross chapter or access the Red Cross shelter map on redcross.org, which is updated every 30 minutes with shelter locations by address, city, state and/or zip code.
Red Cross workers are providing health and mental health services and Red Cross emergency vehicles are distributing food and relief supplies throughout the affected states as weather conditions permit. The Red Cross is mobilizing additional disaster workers and emergency vehicles to move into the affected states to provide additional help when it is safe to do so.
“It’s heart wrenching to see the destruction this storm has caused and that so many people have lost everything,” said Richard Reed, senior vice president, Disaster Cycle Services for the Red Cross, who is in Arkansas. “Red Cross workers are here now, providing shelter, food and comfort, and we’ll be here for weeks to help people as they begin to recover.”
STORM STILL A THREAT More than 75 million people are still at risk from this storm system which threatens communities from the southeast coast to the Great Lakes and into the Mid-Atlantic region. Parts of Alabama and Mississippi face the highest threat today in communities already battered by the storm Monday.
DOWNLOAD TORNADO APP People should download the free Red Cross tornado app onto their mobile devices. The app includes a warning siren and alert when a tornado warning has been issued and an all-clear alert when the warning expires or is cancelled. Users can find Red Cross shelters and utilize the app’s “I’m Safe” button to let loved ones know they are okay. The Red Cross sent out 4.4 million severe weather notifications in the last 48 hours through its tornado app for tornado and thunderstorm watches and warnings.
TORNADO SAFETY People should know how their community will warn them about the storm. Other steps include the following:
- Pick a place where family members can gather – the basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
- Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
- Watch for tornado danger signs – dark, greenish clouds, a cloud of debris, large hail, a funnel cloud or roaring noise.
- Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or severe winds. If there is access to a sturdy shelter or vehicle, abandon the mobile home immediately and go to that facility. Do not wait until the tornado is in view.
- If someone is caught outdoors, they should seek shelter in a basement or sturdy building. If they can’t do that, they should get into a vehicle, buckle their seat belt and drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris occurs, they should pull over and park, stay in the vehicle with their head down below the windows, covering their head.
HOW TO COPE The ongoing tornado threat is stressful for people in the storm’s path and even more frightening for residents who have faced tornadoes in the past. The Red Cross offers these steps people can take to support each other during this difficult time:
- Take time to take care of yourself and your family. Reach out to others to offer and receive support.
- Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety since no one knows for sure what will happen next. Remember that it’s okay to feel nervous.
- Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get enough rest.
- Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have any number of temporary stress reactions such as anger, frustration, anxiety or difficulty sleeping.
- Parents should let children talk about their fears and then reassure them about their safety.
- People should also be careful not to overexpose themselves to media reports about the storm.
- To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746.
HOW TO HELPThose who would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting http://www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.