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 (140 Iowa Region 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 the Iowa Region, the Red Cross launched relief operations in September after flood waters inundated communities along the Cedar and Wapsipinicon Rivers in northern and eastern Iowa. Nearly 200 Red Cross disaster relief workers from across Iowa and across the country quickly mobilized providing more than 700 overnight stays in four emergency shelter in Waverly, Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids, served more than 21,000 meals and snacks in communities like Palo and Clarksville, handed out cleanup kits and supplies donated by partners such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and worked with families in communities like Greene and Vinton to help them develop plans for recovery.
“When northern and eastern Iowa was devastated by flooding, Red Cross workers helped around the clock, making sure people had food to eat, a place to stay and help recovering from this disaster,” said Leslie Schaffer, regional executive director for the Iowa Region. “Many people lost everything and the Red Cross was there to help people get back on their feet.”
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 Memorial Day, devastating flooding again hit Texas, some areas received 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 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.
“People impacted by disaster are facing what can be their darkest days. This year a seemingly endless chain of disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people and the Red Cross was there, helping,” said Schaffer. “We need your support now to continue providing help to families affected by disasters. The Red Cross depends on generous financial donations to provide services.”
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 helped 79,000 families recover after home fires 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 the Iowa Region, the Red Cross responded to 616 home fires, offering help and hope to more than 1,750 Iowans in need and installed 2,816 smoke alarms with the help of community partners.
World’s Largest Humanitarian Network Responds to Global Disasters
Before Hurricane Matthew hit the United States, the storm made landfall in Haiti, leaving widespread flooding, damage to infrastructure and major crop and livestock loss. The American Red Cross delivered critical relief, including supplies to reduce the increased threat of cholera in the country.
A massive wildfire in Alberta, Canada threatened dozens of communities in the spring. The American Red Cross deployed almost 100 employees and volunteers to help – five of whom are Iowans.
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador in April, cutting off remote communities and causing severe damage to the country’s infrastructure. Red Cross societies from all over the world stepped in to help.
2016 has been the deadliest year for refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, with more than 4,000 people dead as they try to cross from Libya to Europe. The American Red Cross has contributed funds to help meet the needs of refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life in Europe, including the deployment of a disaster specialist aboard a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean Sea.
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.