The American Red Cross is helping residents in North Dakota and Minnesota where significant flooding is occurring along the Red River, providing food, a safe place to stay, and emotional support as local residents fight to keep the river out of their homes.
The situation could worsen over the weekend as the river crests at more than 20 feet above flood level. The Red Cross has been helping local volunteers in North Dakota and western Minnesota since February as they filled and placed millions of sandbags in an effort to keep the swollen Red River at bay. The Red River Basin was the scene of devastating flooding in 1997.
"We are adjusting our response almost hourly to meet the needs of those impacted by this," said Maryjo Peterson, Red Cross Minn-Kota Chapter Emergency Services Director. "The Red Cross will support people with food, shelter and emotional support. We remind everyone this can be a difficult time emotionally. Our mental health staff is available for counseling."
The Red Cross has been working with local officials and community partners since the flood response began, providing mass care feeding and mental health services to those in need. One such partnership is with the Salvation Army. The Red Cross has served more than 118,000 meals and snacks to volunteers working to fill more than four million sandbags.
Some of these volunteers include students from colleges, middle and high schools throughout the area who hit the streets to help their neighbors. Covered in mud and dirt, several of them commented on why they are helping. "If we were in their position, we would want someone to help us." Amida Mulasi said, "It is important to help your community and be part of something bigger." Chris Nellermore, area teacher said, "These kids are helping each other - and they love to help which makes this community a better place for everyone."
Homeowner, Roland Beach, Sr. said he was expecting to place about 12,000 sandbags on his lot and really appreciated the community coming to help him. "When we have flooding, we have thousands of volunteers show up; it is just the mid-west temperament." He continued, "When the Red Cross came up with hot coffee for the volunteers, everyone just came a running. Over the years, the Red Cross has been here and it's not just during the flood, it's after the flood too."
Just across the Red River in Moorhead, MN, college students were working in a long line passing sandbags to and from each other. Kristiana Sather said, "It is hard work but it is fun helping the community. Even though I am not from here, it helps you realize how to lend a hand." Eric Steuck, agreed and said, "I am saving homes, one sandbag at a time."
The Red Cross is prepared to respond should the river flood people's homes. Red Cross emergency shelters are on stand-by in communities throughout the area in case flood waters rise suddenly. Trailers carrying cots and blankets are in the area, ready to supply shelters if needed. More than 90 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground, ready to help. Ten Red Cross emergency vehicles have been deployed to the area to help with mobile feeding and distribution of clean-up kits containing items like brooms, mops and basic necessities like toothbrushes and soap.
The American Red Cross responds to as many as 200 disasters a day in the United States. This assistance helps people affected by larger emergencies such as flood threat in North Dakota, or a family whose home is destroyed by fire. The Red Cross also continues to help the people of Japan and support the residents of Haiti. If you would like to help, you can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or text REDCROSS to 90999. You can also mail your contribution to your local chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.