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2016: Red Cross Helps Hundreds of Thousands as 180 Large Disasters Hit the U.S.

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This year, a seemingly endless chain of disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people.

In a year that set new records for severe and devastating weather, the American Red Cross provided more assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by these disasters all across the United States than in the past two years combined.

In 2016, 32,000 Red Cross volunteers responded to 180 significant disasters in 45 states and two U.S. territories including wildfires, storms, flooding, Hurricane Matthew and other emergencies.

Here in Central Florida, the Red Cross launched relief operations after several major weather-related disasters affected our communities including Tropical Storm Colin, Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew. In addition, dozens of Central Florida volunteers deployed all over the country to help with other major responses including catastrophic floods, raging wildfires and powerful tornados.

“People impacted by disaster are facing what can be their darkest hours. This year, a seemingly endless chain of disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people, and the Red Cross was there in every case,” said Linda Jorge Carbone, CEO of the American Red Cross Central Florida Region and the Tampa Bay Chapter. “We couldn’t do what we do without the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors, and for that, we are profoundly grateful.” 

A Look Back: Disasters Devastated Communities Across U.S. in 2016

In just the first three months of 2016, the country faced tornadoes in Texas, flooding in Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, along with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The Red Cross was there for each one, disaster workers providing shelter, food and comfort to people impacted.

In mid-April, nearly two feet of rain brought devastating flooding to the greater Houston metro area, and again the Red Cross provided shelter, meals and a shoulder to lean on as residents were forced from their homes. Around the May’s Memorial Day, devastating flooding again hit Texas, some regions receiving 19 inches of rain. Red Cross disaster workers were mobilized once again to help.

June saw fast-moving wildfires in California and historic flooding in West Virginia which destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of residents to evacuate. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers deployed to lend a hand.

Historic flooding in Louisiana in August devastated tens of thousands of lives. At the peak of the floods, more than 10,000 people were staying in more than 50 shelters. Red Cross disaster workers from all across the country came to the state to help.

In September, significant flooding occurred in Iowa, including Cedar Rapids, and once again people were forced to evacuate. Red Cross workers opened shelters and provided meals and relief supplies.

In October, Hurricane Matthew slammed into Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, damaging tens of thousands of homes and causing devastating flooding. And in late November, raging wildfires forced thousands of people in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, from their homes. Again, Red Cross disaster workers opened shelters and provided meals and comfort.

As of early December, the Red Cross had provided the following help to people impacted by disasters across the country this year:

-- Opened nearly 800 emergency shelters, providing 206,000 overnight shelter stays to people forced from their homes

-- Served more than 4.1 million meals and snacks

-- Distributed more than 2.1 million relief items

Home Fires Continued to be Largest U.S. Disaster Threat

Amidst all of these devastating events, home fires continued to be the largest disaster threat in the United States. During 2016, the Red Cross provided casework assistance to help 79,000 families recover after a home fire left them with nowhere else to turn. The Red Cross and thousands of local partners are also working to help prevent home fires, deaths and injuries. Since 2014, at least 116 lives have been saved through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, a total of 574,000 smoke alarms have been installed, and 625,000 youth have been taught about fire safety.

In Central Florida, the Red Cross responded to more than 1,100 local disasters, helping over 6,500 individuals with emergency relief services.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to assist people affected by disasters. If you would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

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 redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.