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Southern States Grapple with Back-to-Back Disasters


This year, spring tornadoes and floods have brought heartache to many parts of the South, but through it all, the American Red Cross is there to help people recover from April’s deadly tornadoes and now major flooding along the Mississippi River.

As the nation’s attention has turned toward the rising river, volunteers from the Red Cross and its community partners began going door to door this week to give residents flood preparedness information and to help them cope with this stressful situation. The Red Cross also opened shelters for residents evacuating flood-threatened areas, and remains ready to provide shelter for potentially thousands of people.

Even as many are now anxiously watching the Mississippi, other Red Cross relief efforts also continue across the South in response to the hundreds of tornadoes that devastated the region last month. Just over 1,000 people stayed in a shelter on Thursday night, including more than 150 in hard-hit Alabama. In that state, more than 12,000 homes were either destroyed or heavily damaged; in North Carolina, almost 2,000 homes.

The deadly tornadoes didn’t spare Mountain City, Tenn., either. Many families are now clearing their land of debris or beginning to repair their homes—and the Red Cross is there to support them.

Teams of volunteers in Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) are delivering meals and distributing cleanup kits and coolers full of useful supplies such as flashlights, work gloves and safety goggles to the people who live in this remote town nestled in Cherokee National Forest.

“I think it’s great; it really helps us out,” said Taylor Robbins, 17, who along with her mother, collected supplies from the Red Cross. “It feels good that people care about us.”

Vince Nicely, a Red Cross volunteer for more than 10 years, is on ERV duty in Mountain City, handing out meals and comfort kits.

“We’ve been doing something different every day,” he says. “I’m learning new things and it feels so good to help.”

ERV driver Tim Hopkins says he’s in it for the long haul. “I just want to stick it out and make sure we’ve got everybody taken care of,” he said. “It’s fulfilling when people are in that shape and you’re able to help.”

Red Cross volunteers like Hopkins will be working across the South for weeks to come as the tornado recovery continues, and as relief operations follow the flooding Mississippi. You can read more about how the Red Cross is responding to this spring’s severe weather on Redcross.org.

How You Can Help

The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $31 million responding to the wildfires, tornadoes and floods that have occurred over the past several weeks, while initiating another costly large-scale relief operation to help people along the Mississippi River. The Red Cross has received $23.2 million in pledges and contributions for disaster relief since March 31 to support the current response in 23 states around the country

The Great Flood of 1927 and the Red Cross Response Eighty-four years ago, the Red Cross was also called into action along the Mississippi during the Great Flood of 1927. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, months of abnormally heavy rain combined with levee breaks led to the flooding of about 26,000 square miles. After all was said and done, more than 162,000 homes were flooded. Read more...

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; you can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.