A look back at the 2018 hurricane season

New hurricane season begins as spring storms continue to wreak havoc

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Hurricane season begins tomorrow, on June 1, and continues through November 30. Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season saw a total of 15 named storms with eight hurricanes. Two of note were Florence and Michael, collectively wreaking $50 billion worth of damage.

Hurricane Florence 2018

Ivanhoe, North Carolina, September 23, 2019. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Florence made landfall in the United States on September 14, as a Category 1 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. At least five people died in the storm.

Michael was only the fourth time a Category 5 hurricane touched down in this country when it made landfall on October 10 in the Florida panhandle. Fifty-nine deaths were directly or indirectly attributed to Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael video screenshots 2018

Panama City, Florida, October, 2019. Photo by Amy Anderson/American Red Cross

The American Red Cross was there helping residents affected, providing 3,200 disaster

Hurricane Michael 2018

Day 5 after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida.  Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

workers, comprised of nearly 90 percent volunteers. More than 150 of those workers were from Northeast Ohio. Working with partner agencies, the Red Cross served more than 1.93 million meals and snacks. As cleanup began, more than a quarter-million relief items like cleanup kits and shovels were distributed. More than 70 emergency response vehicles were mobilized to deliver food and relief supplies.

Tips during any high wind situation

While Northeast Ohio never takes the brunt of a hurricane, we can get our share of high winds, thunderstorms and tornadoes, as the Dayton area experienced earlier this week. So what are some things to share with family members when preparing for high winds and inevitable power outages?

  • Never go near downed power lines. Report downed lines to the power company and keep people away.
  • Don’t risk a fire using candles – use only flashlights.
  • Keep a charged battery pack (preferably 20,000 mAh or bigger) for recharging cellphones until power returns.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain contents for as long as possible. Review these food and water tips during an emergency.
  • Only use portable generators, grills or camp stoves outside the home. Maintain adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide from entering the home. Never refuel a hot generator. Wait for it to cool first.
  • Be sure to check on relatives, neighbors and friends, especially those with disabilities, accessibility and functional needs.

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What to do right now

Before power goes out, download these Red Cross apps for your cellphone:

Emergency – This all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

First Aid – Get instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies.

Monster Guard – For kids aged 7-11. This app teaches preparedness for real-life emergencies at home with the help of Maya, Chad, Olivia and all the monsters.

 

 

From Northeast to Southwest: American Red Cross is Ohio-strong

NEO volunteers assisting residents affected by downstate tornadoes

More help from Northeast Ohio is on the way to tornado stricken Dayton and the surrounding area.  An Emergency Response Vehicle, which is stationed in Cleveland, will be deployed with a two-person crew to help provide meals and emergency supplies to residents affected by Monday night’s storms.

More than 130 Ohioans spent the night in 6 shelters last night.  They were among nearly 500 people who took refuge in more than 30 Red Cross and Community shelters in several states that have been hit hard by bad weather this week.

Red Cross volunteers Pam Williams and Monica Bunner working in Dayton

In addition to the ERV and its crew, six other disaster workers from Northeast Ohio are assigned to the relief operation, and are already in Dayton, fulfilling various roles – from mass care to government operations to reunification.

“Basically we help families reunite,” said Monica Bunner, a disaster volunteer from Medina. “Say someone is missing as a result of the disaster and could be in a shelter. The Safe & Well site allows one to register and send messages to loved ones to let them know they are OK.”

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                                           Photo credit:  Todd James/American Red Cross

Prepare in Advance

More spring storms are in the forecast this week for a vast swath of the country.  You can prepare for violent weather in the following ways:

Educate your family on how to use the Safe and Well website.

Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, which includes a battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio). For a detailed list of supplies to include, see updated Be Red Cross Ready Checklist.

Create a household emergency plan that includes your pets.

Stay informed about your community’s risk and response plans.

Download the Emergency App for iPhone or for Android.

Remember, if you or a member of your household is an individual with access or functional needs, including a disability, consider developing a comprehensive evacuation plan in advance with family, care providers and care attendants, as appropriate.

Complete a personal assessment of functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation, and create a personal support network to assist.

Many kind-hearted people have offered to help, driven by the compassion that is typical of Northeast Ohioans.  While the Red Cross does not accept donations of items, we do encourage financial support. It is the quickest and best way to get help to the people who need it most, by allowing us to be flexible in the help we deliver.  Financial donations can be accessed quickly, and can ensure that we can provide the residents affected by the tornadoes what they need most.

You can donate to American Red Cross disaster relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Red Cross responds to NEO tornado touchdown and other spring storms

Local volunteers assist residents in Shelby, Ohio and elsewhere

By Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

April 15, 2019 – Spring is usually welcome here in Northeast Ohio, but the tornado strike this week in Richland County is a stark reminder that the season can turn nasty.

“We have a shelter on standby for tonight (Monday) at the Shelby YMCA Community Center, and volunteers in an emergency response vehicle going through damaged areas of the community, offering meals as folks work to recover their belongings,” said Tim O’Toole, American Red Cross regional disaster officer for Northeast Ohio.

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Red Cross volunteer Bill Conley in Shelby, Ohio

“We also have teams there doing damage assessment so we can sit down with people whose homes were damaged or destroyed and help them with immediate and longer-term assistance.”

Meanwhile, Mother Nature has been particularly aggressive elsewhere in the country, with the South strafed by multiple tornado outbreaks and the Midwest hit with “bomb cyclones,” tornadoes and historic flooding.

The Red Cross has mustered hundreds of disaster workers – including men and women from our area – to bring comfort to victims of these severe weather events.

“I had seen pictures of the flooding before I left, but when I got out there I was totally amazed by the damage,” said veteran Red Cross volunteer Rick Whitehead of Willoughby, Ohio, who spent 10 days in Lincoln, Neb. “In some places you could barely see the tops of houses.”

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Red Cross volunteer Rick Whitehead

Rapid melting after a freak snowstorm swelled rivers so fast “some towns were literally islands,” he said. National Guard helicopters airlifted Red Cross shelter personnel, food and water into some Nebraska communities, cut off by high water, and ruined roads and bridges.

For the scope of flooding across Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin, the Red Cross has done relatively little sheltering: 6,300 overnight stays. But it has provided help in one form or another to some 7,760 households: 65,000 meals, more than 1,000 cases of water, and nearly 39,000 cleanup kits and supplies such as diapers, bleach and other items not readily available in stranded communities.

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And it’s not over yet. Kevin Jones of Brunswick, Ohio, who is helping keep Red Cross field computer systems running in Omaha, said another flood crest is working its way down the Missouri River. “Some communities will get hit again,” he predicted.

“Looks like it’s going to be a busy year” for disaster response, the veteran volunteer observed.

Indeed, deadly storms raked Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia several weeks ago, and just days ago, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi got hit. The Red Cross is responding wherever shelter, food, medical and emotional support, and relief supplies are needed.

The Red Cross has tips to keep yourself and your family and loved ones safe at https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/Spring-Brings-Its-Own-Severe-Weather-Get-Ready-Now.html

“We’re just coming into prime tornado season and already we have disaster workers helping one community,” O’Toole said. “But we’re ready. That’s the strength of the Red Cross, having trained responders all over who can help their neighbors or folks across the country they’ve never met, no matter what the emergency.”

To become a trained volunteer to help victims of disasters here in Northeast Ohio or across the country, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Former stay-at-home mom now leaves home to help others

A volunteer profile will post here each day during National Volunteer Week

By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

April 10, 2019 – Barb Thomas has left her home in Canton to help with disaster relief operations four times since joining the American Red Cross as a volunteer in 2016.

Barb Thomas III

Barb Thomas, on assignment in during the Hurricane Florence relief operation in North Carolina in 2018

“The kids are grown now, and I have the time,” Barb said, shortly after returning from her latest deployment in Mississippi, where she served as staff services supervisor for Red Cross workers assigned to help flood victims.

“We were responsible for the ‘good hello and good goodbye’ for the volunteers and staff who participated in the deployment, and for keeping track of all the members on deployment,” she said.

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En route to Mississippi, 2019

Barb has deployed to southern Ohio, where flooding occurred last winter. She also left last fall to help with the relief effort following Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. A year before that, she responded to Hurricane Irma in Georgia.

The bulk of Barb’s volunteer work occurs closer to home, where she helps administer all facets of disaster cycle services. “I have assisted in a presentation to get people signed up for smoke alarms and have installed smoke alarms in homes,” which covers preparedness.  Response-wise, “I have been to numerous home fires, supported the fire department by providing canteening services, and worked in a shelter,” she said. “And I assisted in recovery with casework.”

But the time she has spent in other parts of the country to help those affected by disaster has made an impression on the former Human Resources professional.

“I have met some incredible people who have an amazing dedication to volunteering with the Red Cross,” she said. “They are client-focused and willing to pitch in wherever and whenever necessary.”

“Barb Thomas is a breath of fresh air, adding positive energy to our chapter,” said Kim Kroh, executive director of the Stark and Muskingum Lakes Chapter. “She is a true leader who is valued greatly by the staff and by other volunteers.”

When asked what she would say to encourage others to volunteer for the Red Cross, Barb said, “If you are interested in positively impacting individuals and your community, the Red Cross is an excellent organization. I have had direct contact with the public and individuals in need.”

She added, “It feels good to be part of an organization that supports the community on such a personal level.”

Barb Thomas IV

Red Cross workers headed to Georgia in response to Hurricane Irma in 2017.  From left: John Muni, Barb Thomas, Tim Reichel, Craig Hitchcock, and Mark Behlke

To become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or call 216-431-3328.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Red Cross provides support to help residents escape cold, wind following weekend storm

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

February 26, 2019 –  “Since 1:30 p.m. Sunday, we had no power, no heat and no water. We could see our breath and we had nowhere else to go. This warming center mean a lot. IMG_5958Not only were we given a place to warm up and enjoy food and refreshments, but we were given great support from everyone here,” said Bill and Diane Harasyn, Chardon residents who escaped the cold by visiting an American Red Cross-supported warming center.

Bill and Diane were not alone. As wind gusts reached as high as 60 miles an hour and temperatures plummeted across Northeast Ohio this weekend,  thousands of residents lost power and heat in their homes. Throughout the weekend, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio disaster team monitored the damage and power outage throughout the region. The disaster team also remained in contact with local emergency representatives to determine the need for Red Cross support for warming centers and shelters.

The Red Cross helped support an overnight warming center at the Chardon United Methodist Church on 515 North Street, providing blankets, cots and other materials needed to support residents spending time at the center.IMG_5974

The shelter workers in Chardon also received Red Cross training to help them properly operate an overnight shelter. “While we have operated a warming center three times, this was the first time we operated an overnight shelter,” stated shelter workers Vern and Lynn Kempf. “The Red Cross training we received helped prepare us for what we might expect as well as providing support for overnight residents.”

The Chardon warming center remained open Monday night to provide residents relief from the cold.

The Red Cross is also supporting a warming center at the Solon Community Center on 35000 Portz Parkway, by providing cots and blankets.

The Red Cross also opened and operated an overnight shelter Monday at the Salvation Army on 809 Emmet Avenue NW in New Philadelphia, and at the North Canton United Church of Christ.  No residents spent the night in either shelter.

Additionally, the Red Cross responded to several cases regarding to storm-related damage, including the wind damaging and removing the roof of an apartment building in Woodmere and a tree falling on a home in Painesville. Below are photos from the additional response.

You can support our efforts to train volunteers as shelter workers, and to purchase supplies like cots and blankets by making a donation here, or by calling 1-800 RED CROSS.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: February 15-17, 2019

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

February 18, 2019- Over the weekend, the American Red Cross was once again very active responding to calls across Northeast Ohio and assisting residents who have suffered a local disaster.

IMG_5580During the weekend of February 15-17, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 12 incidents, including at least one disaster in each of the five chapters in the region. The disaster team assisted 28 adults and 11 children, and provided more than $9,000 in immediate financial assistance.

Unfortunately, one of the weekend disaster responses was a home fire in Mingo Junction that resulted in one adult fatality. The Red Cross is saddened by this tragedy. We will remain in contact with the victim’s family to provide assistance, such as support from disaster mental health workers.

The vast majority of local disasters that the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responds to are home fires. Every 24 hours, on average, the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio responds to three home fires. To learn how you can protect your family from home fires and to request a free smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.Sound the Alarm Colorado 2018

If you would like to provide a financial donation to assist the Red Cross’ efforts to support the residents of Northeast Ohio, visit redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

If you cannot support the Red Cross monetarily but you are interested in making an impact in your local community, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.

Northeast Ohio Region weekend disaster response report: February 8-10, 2019

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

February 11, 2019-  While individuals across Northeast Ohio were out running around to make last minute plans for Valentine’s Day, the American Red Cross was fighting another weekend of frigid temperatures to show love to residents during their darkest moments following a local disaster.

During the weekend of February 8-10, the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 11 incidents in Akron, Ashtabula, Cleveland, Eastlake, Euclid, Leavittsburg, Mansfield, Sandusky, Streetsboro and Warren. The disaster team assisted 38 individuals and provided more than $8,500 in immediate financial assistance.

One of the incidents the NEO Red Cross responded to was a home fire in Euclid, which caused an estimated $80,000 in damages.

2019 Euclid fire response

“I am truly amazed at the selflessness of all of our volunteers, while everyone else is spending time with their families, going to events and getting ready for the week ahead, our volunteers are answering the call,” said Ben Bellucci, the disaster program manager for the Greater Cleveland Chapter, who responded to the call and took the photo above showing the significant damage from the fire.

Ben added, “It takes an amazing person to get up in the middle of the night, go to a neighborhood they have never been, walk up to complete strangers, and be the light in their darkest hours. Being able to see a client who has despair in their eyes, and the questions of “what is next?” to speaking with a client that has been touched by the Red Cross, either through case work, community partners and or just a hug, reminds me why I love this job and why I love working with the volunteers.”

The majority of local disasters that the Red Cross responds to in Northeast Ohio are home fires. Every 24 hours, the Red Cross responds to three home fires on average. To learn how you can protect your family from home fires and to request a free smoke alarm installation, visit soundthealarm.org/neo.

If you are interested in making an impact in your local community, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Services Department directly at 216-431-3328 or NEOvolunteer@redcross.org.