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NEWS

Red Cross Responds as Severe Storms Rip Across Central United States
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Carrie Housman
 
May 12, 2008

Families across Missouri, Oklahoma, and Georgia spent Mother's Day searching through their damaged homes and beginning the long road to recovery after a series of severe storms and tornadoes ripped across the central US on Saturday. Media reports indicated that twenty-three people were killed by the storms, and at least 150 more were injured.

The American Red Cross has dispatched several teams of disaster assessment volunteers to the hardest hit areas to determine how many people need help and how much help they will need. In Oklahoma, shelters are open in the hardest hit areas and mobile feeding trucks have been circulating through the neighborhoods with food for survivors and emergency workers. Three Red Cross shelters were opened in Missouri on Saturday night and three emergency response vehicles are there as well. In Georgia, the damage and the Red Cross services are scattered through out the southern portions of the state, as Red Cross workers concentrated on meeting the basic needs of people affected.

In addition, the Red Cross is working with local public health authorities to ensure enough nurses are available to tend to those who lost prescription medications or may need basic first aid care. Mental health workers are also being dispatched to help support the victims of these devastating storms.

Because local telephone lines are down, the Red Cross is encouraging local residents to use the Safe and Well service to stay in touch with family and friends. The Safe and Well Website provides disaster victims with a confidential way to let their loved ones know of their general location and status. It can be accessed at www.RedCross.org.

Tornado Preparedness This year's tornado season has been particularly busy with severe storms affecting Missouri, Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

If forecasts call for possible severe weather in your community, act now to prepare by taking the following actions.

Prepare a Home Tornado Plan:

  • Pick a place where family members could gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Containing:

  • First aid kit and essential medications.
  • Canned food and can opener.
  • At least three gallons of water per person.
  • Protective clothing, bedding, or sleeping bags.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
  • Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn natural gas service back on.)

Stay Tuned for Storm Warnings:

  • Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information.
  • Know what a tornado WATCH and WARNING means:
    • A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area.
    • A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area. Go to safety immediately.
  • Tornado WATCHES and WARNINGS are issued by county or parish.

When a Tornado WATCH Is Issued...

  • Listen to local radio and TV stations for further updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Many people say it sounds like a freight train.

When a Tornado WARNING Is Issued...

  • If you are inside, go to the safe place you picked to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects. The tornado may be approaching your area.
  • If you are outside, hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building or lie flat in a ditch or low
  • lying area.
  • If you are in a car or mobile home, get out immediately and head for safety (as above).

After the Tornado Passes...

  • Watch out for fallen power lines and stay out of the damaged area.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home for damage.
  • Do not use candles at any time.

 

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.


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