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

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For the second time in a year, many people lost everything and the Red Cross is still there helping

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. 

In South Carolina families faced the onslaught of Hurricane Matthew along the coast, felt the impact of wildfires and a tornado in the Upstate, and, across the state, suffered from injuries, deaths and property damage due to home fires. 

Here in South Carolina, the Red Cross launched relief operations as Hurricane Matthew brought high winds and rough seas to the coast. Since Matthew took aim at the South Carolina, the Red Cross mobilized more than 1,700 Red Cross workers and 45 response vehicles, and working with partners:

  • Provided nearly 20,000 overnight shelter stays in more than 95 shelters
  • Served nearly 290,000 meals and snacks
  • Distributed over 147,000 relief items including comfort kits, tarps, flashlights, trash bags, shovels, rakes, bleach and work gloves
  • Provided more than 10,000 health and mental health services 
  • “Our region was devastated by Matthew and 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 Louise Welch Williams, CEO for the Red Cross in South Carolina. “For the second time in a year, many people lost everything and the Red Cross is still there, helping people get back on their feet.” 

    During the past six weeks in the Upstate, nearly 150 Red Cross volunteers provided support to partners and helped families affected by the Pinnacle Mountain wildfire and Simpsonville tornado. The Red Cross worked closely with partners to open shelters and provide a safe place for families to stay, distribute more than 16,600 relief items and 25,000 snacks, and provide assistance to the families whose homes were damaged and destroyed by the tornado. 

    South Carolina was not the only state hit hard by disasters this year. As of December 4, the Red Cross 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 
  • “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 Williams. “But we need your support now to continue providing help to families affected by disasters.”

    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.

    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, 11 of these in South Carolina, a total of 574,000 smoke alarms have been installed, and 625,000 youth have been taught about fire safety.

    Here in South Carolina, as of December 15, the Red Cross helped more than 6,300 people after home fires, and, with the help of community partners, installed more than 31,200 smoke alarms, helping to protect more than 8,700 families from home fires.

    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. 

    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.  

    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 the American Red Cross at 2424 City Hall Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406.