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INFORMATION UPDATE: Severe Storms, Tornadoes and Floods

The American Red Cross remains on the ground across seven states, helping people affected by the recent onslaught of severe storms and tornadoes that have impacted portions of the Southern Plains and Mississippi Valley. In Texas, families are starting to pick up the pieces after tornadoes deluged entire neighborhoods and caused several deaths. In Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Illinois torrential rains have caused major to record flooding. These floodwaters have inundated homes, businesses and major roadways.

On Monday, more than 289 people sought refuge in 21 Red Cross and community shelters throughout Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois. In addition to providing shelter, Red Cross disaster teams are circulating through affected neighborhoods to assess the damage and see how we can best help those affected. In areas that are safe to enter and offer services, Red Cross disaster teams are distributing meals, water and relief supplies including comfort and cleanup kits to help people in great need. To date more than 200 Red Cross workers have served more than 7,600 meals and snacks and distributed more than 8,000 relief items.

In Canton, TX families are just now gaining access to neighborhoods that were leveled by a tornado that tore through the region over the weekend. Tina and Ken’s family have owned property in Canton for over 100 years, and in just minutes the three homes that they owned with their son, daughter and her family were completely destroyed.

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Tina and Ken sheltered in the innermost room of their home, while their son sought refuge in the tub next door. Fortunately, Tina’s daughter and family were out of town at the time. Tina and her son texted frantically as the tornado ripped through their neighborhood. The last text she received from him said “the roof just came off.” As Tina and Ken’s home collapsed around them, they held each other and prayed that their son was okay and that they would make it through the storm. When the tornado passed, Tina and Ken dug themselves out of the rubble, bumped and bruised, but alive. Their son had made it through the storm as well, but there are no traces left of their daughter’s home.

In the days and weeks ahead, Red Cross disaster workers will remain on the ground and continue to provide relief and support services to families who have lost so much from these disasters. The Red Cross is working closely with the entire response community – federal, state, county and local agencies, other non-profit organizations, churches, area businesses and others – to coordinate relief efforts and deliver help quickly and efficiently.

Additional severe weather is predicted through early next week and rivers could rise above flood level, especially in Missouri and Illinois. The Red Cross is closely monitoring the situation and will be ready to respond if needed.

Safety Messaging

People should download the free Red Cross Emergency App to receive emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of tornadoes, flooding and other disasters, as well as locations of shelters. The App also includes emergency first aid information and a Family Safe feature which allows people to instantly see if loved ones are okay. The free Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

Tornadoes:

  • Know your community’s warning system.
  • Pick a place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way – the basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
  • In a high-rise building, if there isn’t enough time to go to the lowest floor, pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
  • Remove diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

Thunderstorms:

  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • As the storm approaches, take shelter in a building.
  • If you are driving, pull off the roadway and park. Stay in the car with the windows closed and turn on the emergency flashers. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside of the vehicle.
  • If you are inside, unplug appliances and avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • If you are caught outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall, isolated trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.

Flooding:

  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.