WASHINGTON — The American Red Cross is responding across the Midwest where dozens of tornadoes ripped through communities overnight, destroying buildings and downing power lines. Red Cross workers are already operating shelters and providing meals, and more help is on the way.
“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by these tornadoes,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president for Red Cross Disaster Services. “Red Cross chapters are already offering folks food and a safe place to stay and more workers and equipment are being sent it to help people who were in the path of these storms.”
The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center reported at least 97 tornadoes blew across Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Particularly hard hit were the towns of Woodward and Norman in Oklahoma, the towns of Creston and Thurman in Iowa and areas in and around Wichita, Kansas. Currently, hundreds of relief supplies are being moved to the affected areas. These supplies include comfort kits, tarps, coolers, rakes and other cleanup supplies. The Red Cross is also sending in additional staff and disaster equipment.
SAFE AND WELL The Red Cross encourages people to register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website to let loved ones know they are safe by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). From a smart phone, visit www.redcross.org/safeandwell and click on the “List Yourself as Safe and Well” or “Search for Friends and Family” link.
People in the affected areas can let loved ones know their status on the Safe and Well site. Friends and family outside the disaster area can then search for messages from their loved ones by using a pre-disaster phone number or complete address. Safe and Well also enables disaster survivors to update their Facebook and Twitter status through the website.
SAFETY STEPS Officials said the severe weather may continue today from Texas to the upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the country. Information about what to do if tornadoes threaten is available on the Red Cross web site.
The Red Cross reminds people who live in areas hit by the overnight storms that they should not return to their neighborhoods until authorities say it is safe to do so. Other safety steps include:
* Stay out of damaged buildings.
* Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes when examining homes for damage.
* Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
* Use battery-powered flashlights when examining buildings—do NOT use candles.
* If someone notices a gas smell or hears a hissing noise, they should open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly.
* They should also call the gas company or fire department.
* Keep animals under control.
* Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.
HOW TO HELP: People can help those affected by disasters like these tornadoes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Consider making a donation today by visiting 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 someone’s local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Contributions enable the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.
ANNUAL DISASTER GIVING PROGRAM The Red Cross is able to respond quickly when emergencies happen with the help of corporations who are members of the organization’s Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP). ADGP members pledge donations on an ongoing basis to allow the Red Cross to pre-position supplies and be ready to take immediate action when disasters occur.
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.