Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mississippi River flooding update

Red Cross Moving Supplies and Volunteers to Help People Along the Mississippi River and in Tornado-Ravaged South
As flood threat increases, so does the need for donations

Forecasters are predicting catastrophic flooding may occur along the Mississippi River in the next few days, and the American Red Cross is ramping up to help people along the river as efforts continue to assist thousands of people in tornado-ravaged communities across the South.

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.

These disaster costs are in addition to the approximately $378 million that the Red Cross must raise annually to respond to more than 65,000 disasters each year.

“We’re gearing up to respond to major flooding along the Mississippi River,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “Red Cross workers and supplies are already on the way there, even as we continue to provide for the people affected by the tornadoes.”

The Red Cross is preparing to launch a prolonged shelter and feeding operation for people living along the Mississippi, sending in leadership teams, calling down disaster workers and pre-positioning thousands of cots, blankets and other relief supplies. More than 400 Red Cross workers already are in Memphis to support efforts there and in other nearby communities. 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, more than 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 urges people living in 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 today 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 local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Video: Update from Tennessee

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