Spring can be one of the busiest seasons for the American Red Cross, with severe weather causing tornadoes and floods that affecting communities across the country.
Last spring, in a span of only three months, the Red Cross launched 46 large-scale disaster relief operations in 31 states. And weather experts are predicting 2012 to be another busy year for storms.
Tornado Season Arrives Tornado season has traditionally begun in April and extended throughout the month of June. But in 2012, the Red Cross has already responded to tornadoes in January, February and March. March brought particularly brutal storms with approximately 80 tornadoes affecting communities from the Midwest to the Gulf on a single day, March 2.
In the immediate aftermath of these storms, the Red Cross has opened shelters, distributed food and provided comfort and care for those affected. As of March 14, the Red Cross has opened 33 shelters, providing more than 1,000 overnight stays, and has served more than 92,500 meals and snacks to those affected by severe storms. It seems tornado season is arriving early.Homeowner Cindy Cain of Henryville, Indiana talks with Red Cross volunteer Gerry Holmes after the tornado leveled her home as well as most of the town.
In a recent Reuters article, climatologist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said the fact is that tornado season will begin as early as February.
Not only do scientists expect tornado season to start earlier, but the number of days when conditions are ripe for tornadoes to form will likely increase, according to atmospheric scientist Robert Trapp of Purdue University. Trapp and his colleagues also predicted that the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coast, regions that do not typically experience tornadoes, will have an increase in days with tornado-making weather conditions.
Already this year, the Red Cross has responded to tornadoes in southeastern Michigan, an area that is not normally associated with tornadoes. With more days likely to produce tornado conditions and more areas likely to be affected, the Red Cross is helping communities across the country prepare for and respond to these disasters.
Spring Flood Outlook Last spring, the Red Cross also responded to major flooding and widespread wildfires. Thankfully, for the first time in four years, there is no high risk of major flooding this spring according to NOAA’s annual Spring Outlook.
“We’re not forecasting a repeat of recent historic and prolonged flooding in the central and northern U.S., and that is a relief,” said Laura Furgione, deputy director, NOAA’s National Weather Service. “The severity of any flooding this year will be driven by rainfall more so than the melting of the current snowpack.” Still, spring rainfall can lead to flooding at any time and the Red Cross urges everyone to be prepared.
Forecasters say drought conditions will likely persist across much of the southern U.S. and expand in the Southwest through spring which could result in an active wildfire season.
When emergencies strike, knowing where to go and what to do can help save lives. For preparedness tips for spring weather including tornadoes, flooding and wildfires, visit redcross.org.