Hurricane Michael caused incredible destruction in Florida and tens of thousands of people are still dealing with the terrible impact of this deadly storm. The American Red Cross is there now, helping people in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, and will be there in the weeks to come as people begin to recover and rebuild.
Communication has been difficult across Florida’s panhandle because of damage to power lines, cell towers and telephone lines. The Red Cross is working with officials to support reunification efforts for people who have been unable to contact their loved ones. Here is how the Red Cross helped one family reunite:
More than a week of worry about a far-away elderly relative ended when Laura Thompson in Panama City spoke to her family in far-off New York. That conversation, made possible by the Red Cross, was a huge relief to both Thompson and her nephew, Edgar Miranda.
“I wanna thank you guys so much,” Miranda said. “I was so worried about my aunt. It’s a huge relief to know she is okay.”
Miranda reached out when he had not heard from his aunt in Panama City since before the storm. Elizabeth Duffy and Donnie Wilson, trained volunteers on a Red Cross family reunification team, used information from Miranda to begin their search. Within a few hours, they were able to knock on Thompson’s door, finding her safe and sound. They handed her a charged cell phone to put make that all-important call. “I love seeing the smiles when you see everyone is OK,” Wilson said.
Seeing Thompson on the phone to her nephew was emotional for Duffy. “This is my first time volunteering with a reunification team and this is my first reunification,” she said. “It’s just wonderful to help make a connection and it’s unbelievable to see how happy Laura is now that she has spoken to her family.”
The Red Cross has competed dozens of welfare inquiries and reconnected family members separated by Hurricane Michael. Meanwhile, hundreds of Florida residents have registered on the Red Cross Safe & Well website to reassure family and friends of their status after the storm.
RECONNECTING WITH LOVED ONES The Red Cross has two easy ways to help you reconnect with loved ones. The Red Cross Emergency App features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts, letting friends and family know they are out of harm’s way. We also offer the Safe and Well website, a secure option that allows people to list their own status and allows friends and family to search for messages from their loved ones. To register yourself or search for a loved one on the Safe and Well website, visit redcross.org/safeandwell. You can also call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to be connected with your local chapter.
WHAT WE ARE DOING Since the relief response began, Red Cross and community emergency shelters across Florida, Georgia and Alabama have provided more than 33,900 overnight stays to help people with nowhere else to go. Monday night, more than 1,000 people stayed in as many as 11 Red Cross and community emergency shelters across Florida and Georgia.
More than 1,700 Red Cross disaster workers are working around the clock to support relief efforts across three states. Working with partners, the Red Cross has served more than 990,000 meals and snacks. We’ve also distributed more than 169,000 relief items to help thousands of families with the massive clean-up effort.
HOW YOU CAN HELP This is the second massive hurricane response in the United States in less than a month. Thousands of people are looking to the Red Cross for help, and the organization depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters. The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Michael relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on redcross.org or on 1-800-RED CROSS.
HURRICANE FLORENCE Meanwhile, the Red Cross is still on the ground in the Carolinas, helping people impacted by Hurricane Florence. The Red Cross and other organizations have already provided more than 129,400 overnight stays in emergency shelters.
Working with partners, the Red Cross has served more than 2.84 million meals and snacks and distributed more than 735,000 relief items like clean up kits, shovels, bleach, garbage bags and much more to help with the massive clean-up effort.
CRITICAL NEED FOR BLOOD The Red Cross has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. This fall, Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence have forced the cancellation of about 250 blood drives, causing approximately 7,600 units of blood to go uncollected in the Southeast. Low donor turnout is expected to continue in affected areas as communities recover. The Red Cross asks eligible individuals to make an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.