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Red Cross Opens Shelters as Ernesto Gains Strength, Moves North
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Katie Lawson
September 1, 2006

Tropical Storm Ernesto made landfall in the Carolinas overnight and is moving north up the East Coast of the United States, bringing severe weather including heavy rain and winds to the seaboard states. The American Red Cross urges those in the storm's path to stay alert and follow the directions of emergency officials.  

NOAA satellite image of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which remains just below the threshhold of a hurricane, Aug. 31, 2006. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of NOAA)
NOAA satellite image of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which remains just below the threshhold of a hurricane, Aug. 31, 2006.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of NOAA)

Ernesto first made landfall late Tuesday evening on Florida’s Plantation Key. After being named the first hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic season, it was downgraded to a tropical storm, pummeling southern Florida with heavy rain and 45 mph winds. The storm then moved northeast and continued to strengthen before making landfall again late Thursday evening in North Carolina.

Ernesto came ashore with winds of 70 mph, just below the 74 mph mark that signifies a Category 1 hurricane. The storm is expected to continue north at a decreased speed over the next 24 hour period as its center moves farther inland.

In the days leading up to landfall in Florida, the Red Cross began to initiate disaster response operations and deployed nearly 2,000 volunteers to the region. Prior to the official beginning of hurricane season on June 1, supplies were pre-positioned and warehouses were stocked to assist operating shelters and relief efforts.

Six shelters were opened in affected areas in Florida and welcomed a total of 4,000 overnight guests on Tuesday. Red Cross volunteers served over 5,200 meals and nearly 5,800 snacks to those who were forced to evacuate their homes.

For both Carolinas and some parts of Virginia, heavy rainfall is now a major concern as forecasters predict as much as 12 inches of rain in some areas. Nine Red Cross chapters opened eight shelters in South Carolina where 86 meals and 228 snacks have been served thus far. In North Carolina, two Red Cross shelters are open and standing by with seventeen emergency response vehicles (ERVs) positioned throughout affected areas in the state.

The Red Cross is urging residents in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to stay alert and be prepared. If you live in an area that could be affected by high winds, heavy rain and flooding, know what to expect.

If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood. Listen to the local radio, TV and NOAA radio stations for updated storm and flood information.

When A Flood Watch is Issued

  • Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
  • Fill your car's gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued.

When a Flood Warning is Issued

  • Listen to the local radio, TV and NOAA radio stations for flood advice, and follow instructions from emergency officials.
  • If told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.

Be sure you know the difference between a flash flood watch and a flash flood warning. A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in your area. A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon. Follow these tips to ensure your safety and the safety of your loved ones.

When A Flash Flood Watch is Issued

  • Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

When a Flash Flood Warning is Issued

  • Or, if you think it has already started, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
  • Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades . . . they are there for your safety.
  • If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

For more preparedness information and flood safety tips, visit the "Get Prepared" section of Redcross.org or contact your local chapter.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of recent disasters and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.

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