Across the country, the American Red Cross spent much of 2012 helping people whose lives were impacted by disasters. Relief efforts were launched in response to 113 large scale disasters in 42 states and territories between January 1 and December 1.
“Hurricane Sandy dominated the news coverage, but it wasn’t the only disaster that disrupted lives in 2012,” said Tina Labellarte, Region CEO. “Here in Nebraska and Southwest Iowa, the Red Cross responded to an early-season tornado in Thurman, Iowa and wildfires across Nebraska that damaged many business and homes,” Labellarte said.
On Saturday, April 14th a category EF2 tornado ripped through the town of Thurman, Iowa destroying nearly 75 percent of its buildings. 35 Red Cross volunteers and staff were on site and provided more than 3,000 meals and snacks. One shelter was opened for people to receive food, comfort, care and a place to rest. Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) brought food & supplies directly to families for the following week. Affected families received assistance with food, clothes, shelter, information and referrals based on their specific need.
Just three months later, lightening from strong storms in North Central Nebraska sparked one of the largest wild fires the state has ever experienced during record setting heat and a drought. The “Fairfield Creek Fire” engulfed almost 100,000 acres and was just the start of a summer that included several fires in the sparsely-populated northwest and central portions of the state. 21 Red Cross staff and volunteers supported the residents and fire departments, opening a shelter in Ainsworth and providing 103 overnight stays to the more than 70 residents and responders. For 8 days, the shelter welcomed people who were forced to evacuate and those who needed a place to rest, eat and hydrate. The Red Cross partnered with Oregon Trail Baptist Association to provide and prepare nutritious meals to the more than 500 men and women firefighters who worked the front line. In all, 6,100 meals and snacks were served to residents, volunteers, and emergency responders.
More recently, just five days before Christmas, a wicked winter storm dumped more than 8 inches of snow on the majority of Nebraska and Southwest Iowa. Strong winds zeroed visibility for travelers and knocked the power out to thousands of residents. Red Cross opened shelters in Holdrege, Geneva and Omaha. 46 stranded motorists were escorted to central Nebraska shelters by state officials, and in Omaha, Red Cross volunteers opened a shelter at the city-run Columbus Park Community Center to meet the needs of the thousands of people who were without electricity and heat.
Across the United States, the Red Cross opened 907 shelters and provided more than 109,000 overnight stays to help people forced from their homes by disasters. In total, more than 29,000 trained disaster workers served 9.9 million meals and snacks and distributed more than 6.8 million relief items. Health and mental health workers provided more than 141,000 consultations to help people on the road to recovery.
The Red Cross also responded to tragic events that impacted people’s lives in the last year, most recently the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as the mass shootings at a shopping mall near Portland, Oregon, at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in July and at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August. In each mass casualty response, the Red Cross provided emotional and mental health support, as well as food and drinks for first responders.
Hurricanes Impacted Many Lives
In June, Tropical Storm Debby marked the start of hurricane season by causing widespread flooding across much of Florida. Then in late August, Hurricane Isaac came ashore bringing with it strong winds and drenching rain. In response to Isaac, the Red Cross mobilized thousands of disaster workers to help people by opening 157 shelters, providing thousands of overnight stays. Volunteers served hundreds of thousands of meals, distributed more than 140,000 relief items and provided thousands of health and mental health contacts.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall along the Atlantic seaboard in late October, leaving massive devastation in its wake. In all, eleven states and Puerto Rico felt the impact with New York and New Jersey seeing the most devastation. The large Red Cross relief effort continues today, weeks after the storm’s landfall. As of December 1, more than 15,300 trained disaster workers mobilized to provide help, with 75 of those being from Nebraska and SW Iowa. The Red Cross has handed out millions of relief items and meals, provided tens of thousands of health and emotional support contacts to people whose lives have been turned upside down. The Red Cross will be on the ground supporting recovery efforts for some time.
Spring Tornadoes and Floods
In early March, as many as 95 confirmed tornadoes touched down, destroying communities across the Midwest and Southeast. Tornadoes slammed through the Dallas-Fort Worth area in early April and in mid-April, dozens of tornadoes ripped across the Midwest for a second time. In all, severe spring weather affected communities in 17 states, including Nebraska and Iowa. The Red Cross launched responses to provide safe shelter, warm meals and relief supplies to people forced from their homes. Disaster workers served nearly a quarter of a million meals and snacks and handed out more than 112,000 relief items like cleaning supplies and comfort kits.
A string of storms with winds up to 90 miles per hour slammed across Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio and the District of Columbia in June, bringing with them hundreds of reports of impact from severe weather. Millions were without power in areas while high temperatures broke records. The Red Cross provided thousands of overnight stays in more than 70 shelters, served more than 246,000 meals and snacks, and distributed about 128,000 relief items.
Dry conditions fueled devastating wildfires across the western part of the country, forcing evacuations and destroying homes. In response, the Red Cross launched wildfire relief operations in ten states including Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington and California. The Red Cross provided nearly 4,000 overnight stays in shelters, served more than 159,000 meals and snacks, and handed out tens of thousands of relief items to people in need.
The American Red Cross helped almost three million people around the world in 2012, responding to 13 disasters in more than 20 countries. These included floods in Bolivia, Peru, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Panama. Assistance was also sent to Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Mali and Malawi to help people affected by food shortages, as well as a drought in Paraguay. Red Cross workers are also responding to help people affected by civil unrest in Syria and a cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone. The American Red Cross responded in Jamaica and Haiti after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in those countries.
The Red Cross thanks everyone who has supported disaster relief operations this year. Every nine minutes the Red Cross responds to a disaster in communities across the country. Whether the disaster is a hurricane or a fire in someone’s home, the Red Cross is there.
The Red Cross also provides 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families – in war zones, military hospitals and on military installations around the world; collects and distributes more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and trains more than 9 million people in first aid, water safety and other life-saving skills every year.
If someone would like to support the Red Cross mission and help those in need, they can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text 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.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.