Busy Year for the American Red Cross

busy year for the Red Cross
Hurricane Sandy dominated the news coverage, but it wasn’t the only disaster that disrupted lives in 2012. – Kelley McGuirk

The American Red Cross spent much of 2012 helping people all across the country whose lives were impacted by disasters, including right here in Alaska. Across the country, relief efforts were launched in response to 113 large scale disasters in 42 states and territories between January 1 and December 1.

Fall flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and the spring Derecho were some of the emergencies that affected communities all across the country. From Alaska to Florida, from the East Coast to the West, few regions were spared.

“Hurricane Sandy dominated the news coverage, but it wasn’t the only disaster that disrupted lives in 2012,” Kelley McGuirk, Director of Disaster Services for Alaska. “Here at home we assisted many during the Alaska Fall Storms and the number of lives affected nationwide by large disasters in the past year is simply staggering. The Red Cross responded to devastating hurricanes, flooding and wildfires that wiped out entire neighborhoods and offered people shelter, food and comfort.”

In the United States, the Red Cross opened 907 shelters and provided more than 109,000 overnight stays to help people forced from their homes by disasters. In total, more than 29,000 trained disaster workers served 9.9 million meals and snacks and distributed more than 6.8 million relief items. Health and mental health workers provided more than 141,000 consultations to help people on the road to recovery.

The Red Cross also responded to tragic events that impacted people’s lives in the last year, most recently the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as the mass shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in July and at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August. In all three responses, the Red Cross provided emotional and mental health support, as well as food and drinks for first responders.

Alaska Fall Storms

On September 22, Governor Sean Parnell declared the Mat-Su and Kenai Peninsula Boroughs in states of emergency due to wide spread flooding, heavy rains and high winds. American Red Cross of Alaska operated 5 shelters statewide, offering dry beds and warm meals to those displaced from their homes.

This series of storms had Red Cross in constant communications with communities from Tanana to Anchor Point—nearly the distance between San Francisco and Portland. Red Cross staff and volunteers ensured that those affected were promptly taken care of, and then handed out cleanup supplies and focused on disaster assessments in Mat-Su Valley and Seward.

Hurricanes Impacted Many Lives

In June, Tropical Storm Debby marked the start of hurricane season by causing widespread flooding across much of Florida. Then in late August, Hurricane Isaac came ashore bringing with it strong winds and drenching rain that impacted Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In response to Isaac, the Red Cross mobilized thousands of disaster workers to help people by opening 157 shelters, providing thousands of overnight stays. Volunteers served hundreds of thousands of meals, distributed more than 140,000 relief items and provided thousands of health and mental health contacts.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall along the Atlantic seaboard in late October, leaving massive devastation in its wake. In all, eleven states and Puerto Rico felt the impact with New York and New Jersey seeing the most devastation. The large Red Cross relief effort continues today, weeks after the storm’s landfall. As of December 1,

more than 15,300 trained disaster workers mobilized to provide help. The Red Cross has handed out millions of

relief items and meals, provided tens of thousands of health and emotional support contacts to people whose lives

have been turned upside down. The Red Cross will be on the ground supporting recovery efforts for some time.

Alaskan volunteers were deployed to both Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy to assist in preparedness, relief

and recovery.

Spring Tornadoes and Floods

In early March, as many as 95 confirmed tornadoes touched down, destroying communities across the Midwest

and Southeast. Tornadoes slammed through the Dallas-Fort Worth area in early April and in mid-April, dozens of

tornadoes ripped across the Midwest for a second time.

In all, severe spring weather affected communities in 16 states, including Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky,

Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, West

Virginia and Texas. The Red Cross launched responses to provide safe shelter, warm meals and relief supplies to

people forced from their homes. Disaster workers served nearly a quarter of a million meals and snacks and

handed out more than 112,000 relief items like cleaning supplies and comfort kits.

June Derecho

A string of storms with winds up to 90 miles per hour slammed Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio

and the District of Columbia in June, bringing with them hundreds of reports of impact from severe weather.

Millions were without power in areas while high temperatures broke records. The Red Cross provided thousands of overnight stays in more than 70 shelters, served more than 246,000 meals and snacks, and distributed about

128,000 relief items.

Summer Wildfires

Dry conditions fueled devastating wildfires across the western part of the country, forcing evacuations and

destroying homes. In response, the Red Cross launched wildfire relief operations in nine states including Colorado,

New Mexico, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington and California. The Red Cross provided nearly

4,000 overnight stays in shelters, served more than 159,000 meals and snacks, and handed out tens of thousands

of relief items to people in need.

Volunteers from American Red Cross of Alaska were deployed to Montana and Colorado to assist in relief efforts.

International Response

The American Red Cross helped almost three million people around the world in 2012, responding to 13 disasters

in more than 20 countries. These included floods in Bolivia, Peru, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh,

Nigeria and Panama. Assistance was also sent to Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Mali and

Malawi to help people affected by food shortages, as well as a drought in Paraguay. Red Cross workers are also

responding to help people affected by civil unrest in Syria and a cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone. The American

Red Cross responded in Jamaica and Haiti after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in those countries.

Thank You

The Red Cross thanks everyone who has supported disaster relief operations this year. Every nine minutes the

Red Cross responds to a disaster in communities across the country. Whether the disaster is a hurricane or a fire

in someone’s home, the Red Cross is there.

The Red Cross also provides 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families – in war

zones, military hospitals and on military installations around the world; collects and distributes more than 40

percent of the nation’s blood supply and trains more than 9 million people in first aid, water safety and other lifesaving skills every year.