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Flood Waters Receding, Now the Clean-up Begins

As the flood waters recede in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi, the American Red Cross is providing people with a safe place to stay and assessing how to best help those whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

Residents are returning to their neighborhoods, many finding their homes unlivable and their possessions destroyed. Overnight, the Red Cross provided food and shelter to more than 340 people. If someone is in need of a safe place to stay, they can visit and click on the “Find a Shelter” link.

“People may be out of their homes for some time,” said Joe Becker, senior vice president of Red Cross disaster services. “We will be there to help them get back on their feet.”

The Red Cross is lending a hand, even though its Clarksville Montgomery Chapter building was completely under water during the flooding. The chapter’s alternate location was also flooded. With the help of community partners, the chapter is continuing to organize shelter and feeding efforts, working out of a local church. Executive Director Linda McCoy reported the chapter building is probably a total loss. “But our sole mission is to continue to provide Red Cross services,” she said.

Tennessee residents describe frightening rescues. Sherrie Yates and her five children are staying in a Red Cross shelter. They had to be rescued by boat from their flooded home. “It was the most terrifying thing that ever happened to me,” she said. Sherrie awoke to several inches of water in her home. She quickly gathered the children onto her bed and called 9-1-1. They watched as the water rose and covered the bed. Eventually, they were evacuated by boat with only the clothes they were wearing. Yates says thanks to the Red Cross, her family’s needs are being met. “You have all been so great,” she said.

Howard Hillard and his wife, Lynn, also Tennessee residents, were nearly swept away when flood water came into their neighborhood. They clung to debris before being rescued. "I never dreamed water was so powerful," Hillard said. They returned to their trailer to find it covered in mud, almost everything they owned ruined. The Hillards said they're extremely grateful to the Red Cross for giving them safe shelter, food and clothes. "We're staying positive," Lynn Hillard said.

If you would like to help, there are three ways that people can make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund: Visit to donate online, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or make a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

As the waters return to their banks, the Red Cross offers the following safety tips on what people should do after a flood:

  • Return home only when officials say it is safe to do so.
  • Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, cracks in the foundation, or other damage.
  • Parts of your home may be collapsed or damaged. Approach entrances carefully. See if porch roofs and overhangs have all their supports.
  • If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department.
  • If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water.
  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
  • Discard items that have come in contact with floodwater, including canned goods, water bottles, plastic utensils and baby bottle nipples. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.

Additional information on flood safety is available on the flood preparedness section of our web site.

Help people affected by disasters like the recent floods and tornadoes in the South, by donating to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.On those rare occasions when donations exceed Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for disasters and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to victims of all disasters. Call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting