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2016: Texas Gulf Coast Red Cross Increases Response During Record Setting Year of Major Disasters

Red Cross volunteer comforting little girl in a shelter
A large number of people lost everything and the Red Cross was there to help them

HOUSTON, TX, (December 29, 2016)— In a year that set new records for severe and devastating weather, the American Red Cross provided more assistance to 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. 

The Texas Gulf Coast experienced several large-scale disasters in 2016. Severe spring storms and floods ravaged the region. Red Cross services provided 5,235 shelter stays, served 324,771 meals and snacks and issued 351,615 clean up items. In addition, selfless volunteers worked with thousands of clients to replace lost prescription medications and eyeglasses and provided emotional support for those coping with the stress of the disaster.

 “Our region experienced three large-scale disasters that severely affected our communities. Round the clock support from Red Cross volunteers and community partners ensured people had a safe place to stay, meals and assistance in starting the recovery process,” said Brian Imiola, Regional Disaster Officer for the Texas Gulf Coast Region of the American Red Cross. “A large number of people lost everything and the Red Cross was there to help them get back on their feet.” 

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 

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, a total of 574,000 smoke alarms have been installed, and 625,000 youth have been taught about fire safety. 

In addition to our major disaster activities, the Texas Gulf Coast Region, with the help of community partners, responded to 2,020 home fires, and installed 5,223 smoke alarms. 

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, 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 our Corporate Holiday Supporters 
During this holiday season, the American Red Cross is grateful for those corporate donors that generously contribute to our Holiday Giving Campaign. They include Circle K West Coast and Florida Divisions and Mazda and its Dealers. Thanks to the generosity of these and other supporters, the Red Cross is able to bring help and hope to people across the country. To learn more about our corporate holiday supporters, visit
About the American Red Cross: 
The American Red Cross shelters, a United Way agency, 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 or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.