You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Red Cross Prepares as Severe Weather Threatens Midwest

People should heed storm alerts and watch for signs of severe weather.

Millions of people face the risk of severe weather today and tomorrow in the Midwest and the American Red Cross wants to make sure they are prepared for thunderstorms, strong winds and possible tornadoes.

Red Cross workers across the region are preparing to respond if needed. The storms could bring tornadoes, 50 to 70 mph winds, heavy rain, large hail, flooding, power outages and even a derecho with straight-line wind damage. Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri residents face the greatest risk and are urged to prepare now.

TORNADO SAFETY People in the path of the storm can download the Red Cross Tornado App which features a high-pitched siren and tornado warning alert that signals when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued. They should also listen to their local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about weather watches and warnings in their area.

Other tornado safety steps include:

  • Know your community’s warning system.
  • Pick a place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
  • If you are in a high-rise building and don’t have enough time to go to the lowest floor, pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
  • STORM SAFETY People should heed any storm alerts and watch for signs of a storm like darkening skies, increasing wind or lightning. If a storm threatens, you should:

  • Postpone outdoor activities and take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
  • If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones.
  • If driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • If you are outside and can’t get to a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers, Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.
  • POWER OUTAGE The storms strong winds could bring power lines down, leaving many with no electricity. If the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. An unopened fridge will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours – 24 hours if only half full – if the door remains closed. Use perishable food from the refrigerator first, then food from the freezer.
  • If it looks like the outage will continue longer than a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items and keep food covered at all times in a cool, dry spot.
  • Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics. Also turn off and disconnect appliances or electronics you were using when the power went out to avoid a damaging surge or spike when the power comes back on.
  • Leave one light on so you’ll know when the power returns.
  • Try not to travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads congested.
  • Do not use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gas, propane, natural gas or charcoal device inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate them away from doors and windows to prevent carbon monoxide from coming indoors.
  • FLOODING The storms’ heavy rains could bring flash flooding to some areas. People should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and head for higher ground when a flood or flash flood warning is issued. Other safety steps include

  • 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.
  • 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 or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.