The American Red Cross is helping people in the Midwest with shelter, food, relief supplies and emotional comfort after tornadoes over the weekend destroyed homes and left thousands without power.
In Moore, Oklahoma there 51 deaths and over 200 injured, but that was not the only place deadly tornados hit. As many as 26 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa, according to the National Weather Service. Hardest hit is Oklahoma, where severe tornadoes ripped through several counties, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes and leaving as many as 35,000 in the dark. The Governor declared a state of emergency in 16 counties. The Red Cross is supporting first responders and is providing shelter, food, distributing relief items and clean-up supplies and working with local and state officials to ensure people get the help they need.
The Red Cross is also helping in Kansas, Iowa and Missouri, where storms left more than 71,000 people without power. Meanwhile, the response continues following last week’s tornadoes in Texas, where the Red Cross is still operating shelters and providing food, relief items as well as health and mental health services.
MORE STORMS POSSIBLE Meanwhile, the National Weather Service warns that the threat of severe weather continues today for millions of people in communities from Texas to the Great Lakes, moving eastward as far as the Gulf Coast and Northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“These are dangerous storms and we urge people to monitor the situation closely and be alert for severe weather warnings in their community,” said Trevor Riggen , vice president of Disaster Operations and Logistics for the Red Cross. “Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property and people should be prepared to go immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).”
TORNADO SAFETY The Red Cross urges everyone to get prepared now in case severe weather and tornadoes threaten their community. They should watch for tornado danger signs such as dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud or cloud of debris, large hail, funnel cloud or a loud, roaring noise. People should pick a safe room in their household where loved ones and pets can gather, such as a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Mobile homes are not safe during tornados. If someone is in a mobile home, they should get to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately – do not wait until the tornado is visible. If someone is caught outdoors, they should seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.
DOWNLOAD TORNADO APP The free Red Cross Tornado App, available in English or Spanish, includes important features like a high-pitched siren and tornado warning alert that signals when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued. The app, found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross, also includes an all-clear alert that lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been cancelled. Content is preloaded so users have access to critical information even without mobile connectivity, including locations of open Red Cross shelters and one-touch “I’m safe” messaging to let loved ones know they are okay through social media outlets.
AFTER THE TORNADO The Red Cross has steps people should follow to stay safe as they begin to return to their neighborhoods. First, they should return home only when local authorities say it is safe to do so and listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. Other safety steps include:
- Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
- Stay out of damaged buildings.
- Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining their home for damage.
- Use flashlights when examining buildings – do not use candles.
- If someone smells gas or hears a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly.
More information about what people should do to stay safe before, during and after a tornado is available on the Red Cross web site.