With tornadoes in the south, snow in the northeast, and flood preparations in the upper midwest, the American Red Cross is busy helping people cope with severe spring weather as well as the late winter storm which blanketed the northeast in snow once again.
In Florida, tornadoes, thunderstorms, high winds and flooding damaged homes and left thousands without power. Disaster workers from Red Cross chapters throughout the state responded, opening shelters, providing food and drinks for emergency responders, and deploying emergency vehicles to distribute clean-up items to those affected by the storms.
In the Northeast, an April Fool’s snowstorm is bringing as much as a foot of snow to some areas. In Maine and New Hampshire, more than 30,000 homes and businesses were without power. Red Cross chapters are on stand-by to help people affected by the late season snow.
And in North Dakota and Minnesota, efforts are still underway to protect the area from flooding along the Red River, the scene of major flooding in 1997. The Red Cross has deployed 7 emergency vehicles to help with mobile feeding and distribution of supplies, and has provided hundreds of clean-up kits containing items like brooms, mops and basic necessities like toothbrushes and soap. As sandbagging efforts continue along the river, the Red Cross has served more than 63,000 meals and snacks in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, MN.
If your community has been affected by tornadoes, the Red Cross has safety steps you should follow:
- Listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
- Return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to utility companies immediately.
- Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining your home for damage.
- Stay out of damaged buildings.
- Use battery-powered flashlights – not candles – when examining buildings.
- If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Fall 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.
- Check for injuries. If you are trained, provide first aid to persons in need until emergency responders arrive.
The arrival of spring signals the onset of tornado season. Throughout the south, peak tornado activity usually occurs between March through May. Northern states see more tornadoes during the summer. These twisters are most likely to strike between 3 and 9 p.m., but can occur at any hour. The American Red Cross wants you and your loved ones to know what you should do to stay safe if a tornado hits your area. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives.
For more information on tornadoes and other preparedness tips, check out the Preparedness section of www.redcross.org. As North Dakota residents work to prevent the Red River flooding, heavy April showers and melting snow could lead to flooding in different parts of the country. If your neighborhood is threatened with the possibility of flooding, you should:
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
- When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
- Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
- If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
The Red Cross wants people to be prepared and know what steps they should take if flooding threatens their home. More information on how to respond if flooding threatens your community is available at www.redcross.org.