Local Red Cross moving supplies, volunteers to help people affected by flood and storms in south

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

The American Red Cross is ramping up to help people along the Mississippi River, where forecasters are predicting potentially catastrophic flooding may occur starting later this week. The Red Cross is sending trained volunteers, cots, blankets and vehicles to areas of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana threatened by the record flooding. Shelters are already opening in some parts of those states.

Meanwhile, Red Cross relief efforts are continuing across the South, where deadly tornadoes destroyed or damaged as many as 13,000 homes in recent weeks. The Red Cross estimates the costs of its responses to the April tornadoes, flooding and other disasters since March 31 could reach $31 million-with the response to the Mississippi River flooding expected to drive relief expenses even higher. As of Thursday, May 5, the Red Cross had raised about $16 million for disaster response since March 31.

“The Red Cross is preparing for a large disaster response to major flooding along the Mississippi, even as we continue to assist thousands of people affected by the recent tornadoes,” said Allen White, Emergency Services Director, of the Cumberland Valley Chapter. “In the coming days and weeks we will need the support of this community to help our neighbors around the country.”

The Red Cross is getting ready to launch a prolonged shelter and feeding operation for people living along the Mississippi, sending in disaster workers and pre-positioning thousands of cots, blankets and other relief supplies. Experts are warning that flood waters could remain in areas for as long as two weeks, forcing people to stay in shelters for more than a month.

Meanwhile, nearly 6,000 Red Cross workers are providing meals, shelter, hygiene and cleanup supplies and health and mental health services to people affected by the recent tornadoes. The Red Cross has launched 20 separate relief operations over more than half of the United States since March 31, responding to disasters from North Dakota to the East Coast and all throughout the South.

Since the end of March, the Red Cross has opened more than 170 shelters and provided more than 13,000 overnight stays, serving more than 1.2 million meals and snacks to people affected by wildfires, flooding and tornadoes.

The Red Cross is urging people living along and around the Mississippi River to get prepared now. If their neighborhood is threatened, they should:

• Be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

• When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for the area, head for higher ground and stay there.

• Stay away from floodwaters. If someone comes upon a flowing stream where water is above their ankles, they should stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep a person off of their feet.

• If someone comes upon a flooded road while driving, they should turn around and go another way. If caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around them, they should 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. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.

• Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

People should know what the warnings mean. A flood watch means a flood is possible in the area. If a flood watch is issued, people should move their furniture and valuables to higher floors of their home. People should keep their vehicle's gas tank full in case they have to evacuate.

A flood warning means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in the area. If a flood warning is issued, listen to local radio and television stations for information. If told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.

Thousands of people have been affected by these disasters. Please consider making a donation by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone's local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.