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Red Cross Responds to Wildfires, Flooding


The American Red Cross is responding to disasters across the country, helping people whose neighborhoods have been affected by wildfires and flooding in Florida, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

In Florida, a large brush fire burned thousands of acres, closed roads and threatened local residents. Red Cross disaster workers opened shelters and helped evacuees and those responding to the fires.

Severe storms caused flooding and power outages throughout Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, prompting evacuations of residents in some neighborhoods. In Ohio, the Red Cross opened nine shelters across the state and distributed clean-up supplies throughout the affected areas. In Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky, disaster workers opened shelters and provided support to emergency responders and those affected by the storms.

If someone needs help or is looking to find a shelter in their neighborhood, they can call their local Red Cross chapter or visit www.redcross.org.

Spring is just ahead, bringing with it the possibility of severe weather such as thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding. The Red Cross has steps people can take to remain safe when harsh storms are predicted for their neighborhood.

Thunderstorms

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, 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 can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows. Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
  • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

Floods Know what flood warnings mean so you know how to respond:

  • A flood WATCH means a flood is possible in your area.
  • 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.

Tornadoes Tornadoes can happen almost anywhere. If a tornado WATCH is issued, it means a tornado is possible in your area. Be alert to changing weather conditions. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Many people say it sounds like a freight train. A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area. Go to safety immediately. Do not wait until you can see the tornado.

If high winds or possible tornadoes are forecast, move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, or anything else that can be picked up by the wind. During the storm, watch for tornado danger signs, such as dark, often greenish clouds; a wall cloud; cloud of debris; large hail, a roaring noise, or a funnel cloud.

Safety steps to take during a tornado:

  • If you are inside, go to a safe place in your home — a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. If you have access to sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home and immediately go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter.
  • If you are caught outdoors, go immediately to a basement or sturdy building. If this isn’t possible, get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and drive to the closest shelter.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. You now have the following options as a last resort: you can stay in the car with the seat belt on and put your head down below the windows, covering yourself with your hands or a blanket if possible; or, if you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Your choice should be based on your specific circumstances.

You can find more preparedness tips at www.redcross.org.

The Red Cross responds to an average of nearly 200 disasters every day, providing shelter, food and emotional support to those affected by these emergencies. These can range from a family whose home is destroyed by fire to a community-wide disaster like a flood or tornado, which affects many households. If you would like to help the Red Cross be ready to respond, you can donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, visiting www.redcross.org, mailing your contribution to your local chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.