Hundreds of stranded travelers looked to the American Red Cross for help Wednesday after the powerful bomb cyclone moving across the country caused blizzard conditions which closed major highways in several western states.
The storm’s heavy rain and melting snow could cause prolonged major flooding as it moves east. The Red Cross is urging people to monitor this storm and follow the safety steps below if flooding occurs in their community.
In Colorado, the Red Cross and community partners opened nine shelters where 620 people sought refuge from the storm. Shelters were also open in Oregon and Wyoming after blizzard conditions closed highways. Some states are already seeing flooding and the Red Cross opened 11 shelters in Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin where more than 130 people spent Wednesday night.
If someone needs to find a shelter, they can redcross.org/shelter, download the free Red Cross Emergency App or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). The Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
Anyone who plans to stay in a Red Cross shelter should bring prescription medications, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, other comfort items and important documents. Don’t forget to bring any special items for children, such as diapers, formula and toys, or for family members who have unique needs.
The Red Cross urges people who may be impacted to follow these safety steps.
Right Before a Flood
- Know the difference between a watch and warning. A watch means that a flood or flash flood is possible in your area, while a warning means that flooding/flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.
- Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
- Be prepared to evacuate quickly if directed and know your routes and destinations. If someone needs to find a shelter they can visit redcross.org/shelter.
- Check emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply. Keep it nearby.
During a Flood
- Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground. Evacuate if directed. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
- Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
- Boil tap water until supplies have been declared safe.
- Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage.
- Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
- Don’t use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded until after they have been checked for safety.
- Dispose of any food that has come into contact with flood water.
- Avoid already flooded areas and areas that are subject to sudden flooding such as dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc. Stay away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains.
- The National Weather Service reports that nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle related. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams or water covered roads.
- If caught in a flash flood, try to get to higher ground and stay there. Just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car.
- Turn around and find another route if you come upon floodwater, rapidly rising water or barricades.
- Don’t allow children to play in or near flood water. It may be contaminated with sewage.
After a Flood
- If evacuated, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so. Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
More information, including a flood safety checklist in several languages, is available here.
DOWNLOAD APPS People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for their area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps. These apps are also available in Spanish. Search for “American Red Cross” in your mobile app store or go to redcross.org/apps. In the app, go to “settings” and “change your apps language” to switch your language to Spanish.
HOW YOU CAN HELP You can help people affected by disasters like floods and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Call, click, or text to give: visit redcross.org, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.