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

Red Cross Responds To Severe Weather across U.S.

It looks like a war zone. It doesn’t look like my home

The strong storms moving across the country are causing damage and widespread power outages in several states and the American Red Cross is helping those affected.

In Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency after tornadoes and severe storms caused extensive damage, gas leaks and power outages in several parts of the state. The Red Cross opened a shelter in the St. Louis area and will be doing damage assessment today when it is safe to go into the affected neighborhoods.

“It looks like a war zone. It doesn’t look like my home,” said Alisa Daffin, who resides in the Hazlewood area of St. Louis and walked to the Red Cross shelter. “The Red Cross is amazing. They have nurses here. I have a medical condition. But I’m okay, my daughters are okay. Thank God for the Red Cross. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Arkansas also experienced severe weather with multiple reports of unconfirmed tornadoes that damaged homes and left many without power. The Red Cross is providing food, relief supplies and health and mental health services and will be in the affected areas today assessing the damage.

In South Dakota, a winter storm damaged homes, left many without power and prompted evacuations in Sioux Falls. The Red Cross opened a shelter and is providing food and comfort kits for those in need and has health and mental health services available. In Nebraska and Wisconsin, winter storms downed trees and power lines and the Red Cross opened shelters for affected residents. Severe winter weather also affected Minnesota where the Red Cross stands ready to provide support if needed.

MORE BAD WEATHER TODAY Weather experts say the strong storms will continue today, affecting a large swath of the country. Snow and strong winds will affect residents from the west to the northern and central plains. Snow is also expected across the upper Midwest, with freezing rain possible across the Great Lakes and thunderstorms and flash flooding in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. Strong storms and the possibility of tornadoes are predicted across the south, while snow, sleet and freezing rain are possible in the northeast. Red flag fire warnings are up in California, Arizona and Nevada where wildfires are possible due to drought conditions and strong winds.

WINTER STORMS The Red Cross has steps people can take to stay safe during this spring snow storm. For instance, people should avoid driving during the winter storm if possible and keep the gas tank full to keep the line from freezing.

If someone does get stuck in the snow, they should:

  • Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
  • TORNADO SAFETY. If someone lives in the areas where tornadoes are possible, they should watch for tornado danger signs such as dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud, cloud of debris, large hail, funnel cloud or a loud, roaring noise. A tornado watch is issued when a tornado is possible in or near a specific area. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted and that people should immediately seek shelter.

    The Red Cross urges everyone to pick a safe room in their household where loved ones and pets can gather, such as a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Mobile homes are not safe during tornados. If someone is in a mobile home, they should get to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately - do not wait until the tornado is visible. If someone is caught outdoors, they should seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. More tornado safety information is available on this web site.

    THUNDERSTORM SAFETY Before lightning strikes, keep an eye on the sky and look for darkening skies, flashes of light, thunder or increasing wind. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Seek shelter immediately. Other steps include:

  • Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.
  • FLOODING The heavy rains could cause flash flooding in some areas. Flash floods occur suddenly when water rises rapidly along a stream or low-lying area. 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.
  • WILDFIRE SAFETY If wildfires are possible in someone’s community, they should make sure driveway entrances and house numbers are clearly marked and identify and maintain an adequate water source outside their home such as a small pond or swimming pool.

    It’s a good idea to select building materials and plants that resist fire and regularly clean roofs and gutters. Household members should also plan and practice two ways out of their neighborhood in case one is blocked and select a place for everyone to meet outside the neighborhood in case they can’t get home or an evacuation is ordered. More information on wildfire safety is available on the preparedness section of this web site.

    DOWNLOAD FREE APPS People can also download the free Red Cross apps for mobile devices. Apps are available to help during hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires, to put first aid information at someone’s fingertips and another that helps locate Red Cross shelters. The free apps are available for direct download from the Appleor Google Play for Android app stores.

    EMERGENCY SAFETY STEPS The Red Cross has information about many different disaster situations and what people can do to get prepared and stay safe should an emergency occur. There is also a Disaster and Library Safety available on this web site which features checklists and guides people can download to know what to do when disasters occur.

    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.