Locally, Nebraska/SW Iowa Region Responds to 437 Large and Small Disasters in 2013

This year, local Red Cross volunteers & staff continued to serve families in Iowa and Nebraska, responding to 437 of family fires, as well as two large disasters

Omaha, NEB., Monday, December 30, 2013 — In a year that had deadly tornadoes, fierce wildfires and destructive floods in many states, the Nebraska/SW Iowa Region of the American Red Cross responded to two large disasters in the region – the September South Platte River Flooding and the October tornado outbreak that damaged Wayne — both are part of the 146 large disaster relief efforts led by the American Red Cross in 42 states and territories between January 1st and December 1st in 2013.

“This year, local Red Cross volunteers & staff continued to serve families in Iowa and Nebraska, responding to 437 of family fires, as well as two large disasters,” said Tina Labellarte, Region CEO. “2013 was a busy year and we are so very thankful for everyone who supported our efforts to help those in need.”

Here at Home

The Nebraska/SW Iowa Region team of nearly 4,000 well-trained Red Cross workers had a busy 2013. When they weren’t deployed to disaster stricken states, they answered the call for help time and again here at home.

In the September aftermath of the deadly flooding in neighboring Colorado, 30 Nebraska/SW Iowa Red Cross Region volunteers worked more than 600 hours to deliver disaster relief supplies to people in the path of the rising water in the South Platte River. Several local businesses offered their support and donations of food, water, snacks and sport drinks. More than 6,000 bottles of water or sports drinks, meals and snacks were delivered to sandbaggers and first responders in communities including: Big Springs, Hershey, Roscoe, North Platte, Sutherland, Brady and Maxwell.

Weeks later, on October 3rd, multiple tornadoes damaged the towns of Hickman and Bennett in southeast Nebraska. Trained adult disaster volunteers worked side by side with the Union College Red Cross Club students to deliver food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care to those whose homes were damaged. On October 4th, a large tornado ripped through the towns of Wayne and Macy in northeast Nebraska. As the storm passed, local Red Cross volunteers opened shelters, served hot meals and comforted those in need. A team of 30 Red Cross workers went through the affected communities to assess the damage to see where our help was needed. Our Disaster Action Team members circulated our emergency response vehicles through the damaged neighborhoods to provide mobile food, clean-up supplies, hygiene items, information and comfort.

On the opposite side of the state, the same storm system blanketed western Nebraska with heavy snow. Thick snow and high winds cut power for many residents and towns. As soon as state officials deemed the roads and highways to be safe to travel on, the Red Cross responded. We comforted those who were hit hard by the blizzard, handed out hot coffee or cocoa, snacks, blankets and warm gloves to residents who came together to clean up the impacted towns.

Most recently, our committed and compassionate disaster action team has been busy responding to the most common everyday disaster, a home fire. Since December 1st, our volunteers have helped more than 200 individuals with food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care following more than 60 heartbreaking home fires across the region.

Behind the Numbers: Mobilizing Responses for Big Disasters

The Red Cross disaster responses across the country in 2013 included:

  • 16,700 workers—96% volunteers—providing care, comfort and support to those in need.
  • 89,000 contacts by specially trained workers with disaster victims who needed mental health support or health services, which is more people than the amount of travelers who pass through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on an average day.
  • 1.8 million meals and snacks, the equivalent of feeding the entire population of Philadelphia lunch in a day.
  • 29,000 overnight stays in shelters for people forced from their homes by disasters, enough to fill the largest hotel in New York City for more than two weeks.
  • 1 million relief items distributed, including more than 33,700 toothbrushes.
  • $74 million to more than 60 nonprofit partners to help people and communities recover from Superstorm Sandy.
  • Flooding

    In April, flooding struck 10,000 homes in 10 counties in Illinois. More than a thousand Red Cross volunteers provided shelter and food to displaced families and delivered relief supplies to those returning to waterlogged homes. In September, almost a half-year’s worth of rain fell in just three days across several counties in and around Boulder, Colo. Red Crossers responded and served more than 204,000 meals and snacks, handed out more than 249,000 relief items and provided about 15,000 health and mental health contacts. The Red Cross also provided a total of 3,800 shelter stays for people forced from their homes by the flooding.

    Tornados and Severe Storms

    The largest and most deadly tornado outbreak in 2013 came in Oklahoma in May, when a series of tornadoes ripped through the state, and Red Cross workers were there to comfort the survivors, including the community of Moore, Okla., where two elementary schools were struck by a deadly EF-4 tornado. More than six months later, the Red Cross continues to help residents through long-term recovery centers and other community programs.

    In addition, Mississippi was hit particularly hard by severe spring storms for the third year in a row, including a tornado that severely damaged the Red Cross building in Hattiesburg in February. Again in April, the Red Cross was there, opening shelters, providing food and water, and helping survivors recover. In November, dozens of tornadoes cut a path of destruction through the Midwest, damaging more than 1,000 homes and leaving hundreds of thousands without power during a cold snap.


    When wildfires threatened communities, the Red Cross offered evacuees a safe place to stay and supported first responders. In total, the Red Cross mobilized more than 2,000 workers to support 10 large wildfire responses in eight states during 2013, such as Colorado, Arizona, California and New Mexico.

    Home Fires

    It’s not just the high-profile disasters that left thousands of people in need this year. The Red Cross also responded to more than 52,000 home fires across America, helping 226,000 people get back on their feet. For those who have suffered a home fire, the event can be just as devastating as the high profile disasters that get a large amount of national attention. Regardless of the size of the event, the Red Cross responds in the same way—with shelter, food and emotional support.

    International Disasters

    In 2013, the American Red Cross assisted an estimated 1.3 million people affected by disasters in 24 countries outside of the U.S. These included storms and floods in the Philippines, Argentina, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Red Cross workers continue to respond to the ongoing humanitarian need created by the civil unrest in Syria, as well as needs caused by conflicts in other areas around the world. The Red Cross responded to food insecurity issues in Malawi and Zimbabwe and continued our earthquake recovery work in Haiti that has been ongoing since 2010. Additionally, the Red Cross continued its vital work in reconnecting families separated by conflict and disaster, reconnecting 886 families this year alone.

    For more on this year’s disasters, view the end-of-year infographic and video.

    The work of the American Red Cross is made possible by donations. Donations can be made by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions can also be sent by mail to a local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross via 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 visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

    About our Holiday Partners:

    During this holiday season, the American Red Cross is grateful for the support of our corporate partners that generously contribute to our Holiday Giving Campaign. They include: Circle K and its customers in the West and Florida divisions, Community Safety Foundation, funded by CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer, Mazda and its Dealers nationwide and University of Phoenix. Thanks to the generosity of these and other sponsors, the Red Cross is able to carry out its mission of helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies everyday here and around the world. Each holiday season the Red Cross gives everyone the chance to support our work by giving blood, signing a card for military heroes or buying a gift through our holiday catalog. To support the Red Cross this Holiday Season, visit redcross.org/holiday.