The American Red Cross is helping people already affected by Hurricane Earl in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and preparing for any landfall the huge storm may make along the eastern coastline of the United States. Up and down the coast from Georgia to Maine, the Red Cross has trained disaster workers, more than 150 mobile response vehicles and four warehouses stocked with relief supplies on alert.
Earl has strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 135 mph extending outward as far as 70 miles from the center of the storm. The National Hurricane Center has urged people from the Carolinas to New England to closely monitor the storm as it makes its way toward the United States. The storm, approximately 500 miles wide, could cause flooding and high winds to areas inland as well as along the coastline. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Fiona has also formed in the Atlantic, with sustained winds of 40 mph.
"We are making preparations for Earl's landfall, but we urge everyone who may be in the path of the storm to also get prepared," said Joe Becker, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. "Early predictions indicate the storm will affect those who are miles inland. Being ready is your best protection against a storm like this."
The Red Cross sheltered more than 50 people overnight on the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, after winds and torrential rains caused flooding and damage to area homes. In Puerto Rico, the Red Cross assisted its government partners by providing help to stranded airport travelers. A seven-member Red Cross disaster-relief team is in the area assisting with logistics, feeding, mass care and operations. Red Cross warehouses on the islands are stocked with additional disaster relief supplies that are ready to be dispatched where needed.
The island of Antigua was heavily affected by the storm and more than 300 people took refuge in shelters, where the Red Cross provided first aid and food. The Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross Society, Saint Kitts and Nevis Red Cross Society, and Overseas Branches of the Netherlands, British and French Red Cross Societies worked with government authorities to set up shelters for evacuees and provided first aid and food with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Residents along the East Coast should be vigilant and watch for the effects of Earl, even if you think you are out of harms way. The Red Cross has a list of important steps you can take to get your household ready should Hurricane Earl threaten your community. If a hurricane watch is posted for your area, it means hurricane conditions are a threat within the next 48 hours. Be ready to act if a warning is issued. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. Complete your storm preparations and leave the area if authorities tell you to go. Updated shelter location information is readily available.
"The most important thing people can do is prepare now in case their area ends up in the path of this storm," Becker said. "Don't wait until the last minute. Safety is the top priority."
The strong Atlantic storms have also caused powerful rip currents all along the East Coast. With the Labor Day holiday weekend only a few days away, the Red Cross advises anyone visiting eastern shore points to swim only on lifeguard-protected beaches, within the designated swimming areas.
If caught in a rip current, remember the following:
- Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
- Never fight against the current.
- Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle--away from the current--towards shore.
- If unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
- If unable to reach shore, yell for help and draw attention to yourself.
- Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
If you would like to help, there are a variety of ways that you can: You can click, text or call to make a financial donation to the Red Cross to help people affected by this storm and other disasters. Visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The storm may also impact blood collections in the affected areas. To find out how you can be a blood donor, visit www.redcrossblood.org
Help people affected by disasters like Hurricane Earl 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 redcross.org.