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Red Cross Lends a Hand as Strong Storms Batter the Northeast

The American Red Cross opened shelters in four states over the weekend as strong winds and heavy rain battered the Northeast.

More than 1,000 people in West Virginia, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey took refuge from the storms in Red Cross shelters. According to news reports, hundreds of thousands are still without electricity as utility crews push through fallen trees and debris to try to restore power.

Meanwhile, across the country, it’s déjà vu for people who live along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota. The river overflowed its banks last year. Forecasts show the river is rising faster than predicted and could hit record flood levels this coming weekend.

During Flood Safety Awareness Week (March 15-19), the Red Cross has steps you can take to be prepared should high waters threaten your neighborhood. The potential for flooding is high across the country following a winter with heavy snowfall accumulations. The snowmelt, combined with seasonal rains, could lead to more flooding than usual this spring.

Yearly, floods are the most common, costly, and deadly severe weather in the United States. Be alert to the possibility of flooding if it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days. Follow these safety steps if heavy rains and flooding are likely:

Know what flood warnings mean:

  • A flood WATCH means a flood is possible in your area. During a flood watch, move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home. Fill your vehicle’s gas tank in case you have to evacuate.
  • A flood WARNING means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. If a flood warning is issued, listen to local radio and television stations for information. If told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.
  • A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in your area. Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate quickly.
  • A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon. Evacuate immediately. You may only have seconds to escape. Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades. If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

Get the facts you need on how to be prepared for flooding and other emergencies in the Preparedness section of our web site.