Ready to Help as Hurricane Season Begins

By Debra Kellar, Senior Specialist, Volunteer Services

Preparations are underway along the coasts, as the 2018 hurricane season is upon us. June 1 marks the start of what forecasters anticipate being a ‘near or above-normal’ year for storms in both the Atlantic and Pacific basins.

Forecasters also predict, with a 70 percent likelihood, that we will see 10 to 16 named storms in the Atlantic, of which half could be powerful enough to be classified as hurricanes. One to four storms are expected to become major hurricanes. Based on this prediction, the 2018 season is expected to be similar to last year–one that saw catastrophic impacts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

 

hurricane graphic

Animation provided by Yiqi Shao

Anatomy of a Hurricane

The formation of a hurricane begins as warm, moist air travels around the equator, rising as it heats, creating an area of low pressure beneath. As cooler air rushes in to take its place, it, too, begins to warm and rise before subsequently cooling, causing the formation of clouds. The system grows, further perpetuating the cycle.  As the winds get faster and faster, an eye will form in the center of the storm.

Once sustained wind speeds reach 39 m.p.h., the system is considered to be a tropical storm. Upon reaching 74 m.p.h., it is reclassified as a hurricane. The Saffir Simpson wind scale is used to further categorize a hurricane, with the weakest referred to as a Category 1 hurricane and winds in excess of 157 m.p.h. considered a Category 5.

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Graphics provided by the NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center, and the NOAA Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

Red Cross Recovery Efforts

Last year’s Category 5 hurricanes came in quick succession, causing response and recovery efforts to pivot and reorganize to meet the needs of those impacted as additional states became affected. The American Red Cross’ ability to adeptly transition comes from its readiness planning and from the unparalleled dedication of its volunteers. Current disaster volunteers had been poised to assist the impacted coastal states, with many volunteers from Northeast Ohio deployed to staging areas pre-landfall. As the 2017 season continued, more than 100 new volunteers from Northeast Ohio became trained to provide disaster relief as part of one of the premier humanitarian organizations in the world.

Helping People in Need

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The Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services Department is already preparing its volunteer workforce in anticipation of another active hurricane season. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the disaster team, visit our website here to begin an online application or contact our Volunteer Services Department at 216-431-3328.

This year, Facebook has teamed up with the Red Cross to make sure people are prepared for hurricane season,  which runs through November 30. In addition to volunteering, you can help by donating to support disaster relief.

Debra Kellar studied climatology and cartography, and earned a Master’s Degree in Geography at Kent State University.

Clara Barton Answers the Call to America’s Largest Flood

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Just before 3 p.m. on May 31, 1889, 14 miles west of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a dam broke, releasing 20-million tons of water into the Conemaugh Valley. In this narrow valley, the water reached 60 feet high as it barreled toward the city at speeds of 40 m.p.h.

By the time it struck Johnstown, the 4 billion gallons of water brought with it everything in its path. Four square miles of downtown were completely obliterated by the crushing flood waters. By the time it was over, 30 acres of human bodies, homes and debris were piled 70 feet high against the stone-arched railroad bridge at the far edge of town. The pressure and amount of the water was later compared to all the water flowing over Niagara Falls in 36 minutes.

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Photo credit: Johnstown Flood Museum

Between the force of the water and the ensuing explosions and fires that broke out, more than 2,200 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed, and $17 million worth of damage was done (close to $500 million in today’s valuation.)

From War Relief to Disaster ReliefClara B

In Washington, D.C., Clara Barton got word of the event.  Prior to this time, she had provided relief to the Civil War soldiers, but was lobbying for the American Red Cross to provided relief for peacetime disasters as well.  Five days after the flood, Clara and five Red Cross workers arrived in Johnstown. Within days, she had assembled a team of 50 doctors, nurses and relief workers.Johnstown Flood

Setting up headquarters in the city, she immediately began organizing donations that began arriving from all around the world.  Food, clean water and supplies were passed out immediately to survivors as they tried to create shelters however they could.

 

“Red Cross Hotels” were opened to provide shelter for those left homeless before the winter weather set in.  The first “hotel” was so successful, five more were quickly erected.

Johnstown Flood 2

Photo credit: U. S. National Park Service

They also began building 3,000 “Oklahoma houses,” a type of prefabricated home, to aid the city in rebuilding. Furniture donations and domestic items were then organized and distributed to outfit these homes.

Clara didn’t leave the city for five straight months, only returning to Washington on October 24, 1889.  The city presented her with a number of gifts to show their lasting gratitude.  One editorialist wrote, “Too much cannot be said in praise of this lady…To her timely and heroic work, more than that of any other human being, are the people of the Conemaugh Valley indebted.”

Today if you visit the Johnstown Flood Museum, you’ll see a section devoted exclusively to Clara Barton and the Red Cross’ success in helping restore the town, along with some of her original papers and one of the first Red Cross blankets to be distributed.

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Photo credit: Doug Bardwell/American Red Cross

Based largely on the success of her mission to aid the Johnstown residents, the American Red Cross received its Congressional Charter 10 years later, in 1900.

Today you can continue the legacy of Barton and volunteer to help with the next big disaster to strike this country.  Volunteer today at https://neoredcross.org/volunteer/.

Access the ProVia Employee Red Cross Volunteer Application here.  

It Takes a (Bay) Village to Help Hurricane Victims

Garage Sale Raises More than Ten Grand for Hurricane Relief

As the weather grows colder in Northeast Ohio, garage sale season is winding down, but that didn’t stop the residents of Bay Village from holding a community-wide garage sale during the first weekend in October.

Proceeds from the sale of the hand-me-down duds, forlorn furniture and unwanted weed-wackers went to the American Red Cross, to help fund disaster relief efforts following one of the most active hurricane seasons on record.

Sales totaled more than $10,000.

“So many people wanted to help, but didn’t know how,” said Bay Village Mayor Paul Koomar.  “Then Annie came up with the idea of holding the community garage sale.”

Annie Nock, a former attorney and current stay-at-home mom, said she wanted to raise money to help people who have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“Annie’s effort, and the generosity of the people of Bay Village is truly humbling,” said Mike Parks, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross.  “The proceeds from this community-wide effort will help people who have suffered greatly this hurricane season.”

Annie helped present a check for $10,154.73 at Bay Village City Hall.

 

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“It’s very difficult to travel south to help the people affected by the hurricanes,” Mayor Koomar said.  “This was a way to give back.  The support was overwhelming.”

With the emergency phase of the Red Cross response completed, efforts are now focusing on long-term recovery programs to get people back on their feet.  If you’d like to help people recover from disasters, big and small, donate at redcross.org/neo, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Finding Family Following Hurricane Maria

Many Northeast Ohio residents are concerned about loved ones in Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Harvey 2017

The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool
that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to
indicate that they are safe, or to search for loved ones. The site is always
available and open to the public and available in Spanish. Registrations and
searches can be done directly on the website. Registrations can also be
completed by texting SAFE to 78876. Messages exist in both Spanish and
English.

To speak with someone at the American Red Cross concerning a
missing friend or relative who has a serious, pre-existing health or mental health
condition, please call 1-800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Recent disasters, like Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico, have left
many across the world looking for their loved ones, and the Red Cross is here to
help.

If you are looking for a U.S. citizen affected by recent international disasters,
please contact the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Citizens
Services at 1-888-407-4747 or go online at
https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/emergencies.html

If you live in the United States and are looking for non-U.S. citizen family
members affected by Hurricane Maria in the French and Dutch territories, and
British Virgin Islands, please visit www.familylinks.icrc.org to find more
information.

If you are seeking information about non-U.S. citizen family members in Mexico
who have been missing since the recent earthquake, please visit
www.redcross.org/FamilyLinks, or call the American Red Cross Restoring Family
Links Helpline at 844-782-9441.

During and after large, devastating disasters such as Hurricane Maria,
connectivity can be a challenge. If you’ve put a request in with American Red
Cross or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
please continue to virtually reach out to your friends and family.

Keep trying to reach out by calling during off-peak hours, and continue to send
text messages and emails. Continually check social media for updates.

Contact other family members or neighbors who live nearby who may be able to
provide you with information

Akron Volunteer in the News!

Local media in Texas have been covering the efforts of the Red Cross to offer care to residents affected by Hurricane Harvey.  The following excerpt appeared in an article in the Killeen Daily Herald on September 6, 2017:

…Meanwhile, Red Cross Shelter Manager Jackie Speciale, a resident of Woodstock, Illinois, is technically on vacation. Some people dream of a tropical destination or a week at a ski lodge. Speciale requested two weeks of vacation from her boss and hopped on a plane to Killeen. Her husband’s back home, going into work late every day this week so he can drop their children off at school.

“For each person you see here with the Red Cross, there’s four or five people behind them,” she said.

She stood in the library with Jason Humphrey, another Red Cross volunteer from the Midwest. The Akron, Ohio, resident was volunteering in his fifth natural disaster. His volunteer work has brought him to Arkansas for tornado relief and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. He works as a security guard at concerts, so his work schedule has a bit more flexibility than most. But still, he dropped everything, for the fifth time in his life, to help those who needed it.

“Somebody’s taking care of my dog,” he said with a laugh.

To read more about the volunteers from across the country who have responded to Hurricane Harvey in Killeen, Texas, click here.

To start a volunteer application, visit this page on our website.

Photos following Hurricane Harvey in Texas/ Credit: Chuck Haupt/American Red Cross

From Hurricanes to Home Fires – Get Prepared in September

Hurricane Harvey 2017By now you know may think that you know all about hurricanes — massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. These large storms are called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring now, between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

It may seem like you’re well versed on basic preparedness tips, such as:

  • Know where to go if ordered to evacuate.
  • Put together a go-bag: disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate
  • If not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan.

And with Ohio not being a coastal state, you may feel that you don’t have to worry about any of these things!

But you should.

Hurricane Harvey 2017Coming right smack in the middle of the peak of Hurricane season, is Preparedness Month. Celebrated every September, it is the perfect time for you, your family, and your community learn how to BE PREPARED.

Prepare for the things you may experience as an Ohioan: tornadoes, flooding, extreme winter weather, power outages, or a home fire.

Step one:
Build a Kit or Do an Annual Supply Check

Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find, and any one of them could save your life. Headed to the store? Download a printable version to take with you. Once you take a look at the basic items, consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets, or seniors.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Waterone gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF)

Additional Emergency Supplies

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Glasses and contact lense solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Maintaining Your Kit

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
  • Replace expired items as needed
  • Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
  • Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.

On Being a Phone Bank Volunteer for Hurricane Harvey Relief

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer 

Your alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and its pitch-dark outside. You shower, shave, fill your travel mug with coffee and head for the garage. Traffic is amazingly light at 6:00 a.m., which is one of the benefits of starting so early, you tell yourself.

You and seven of your fellow Red Crossers are heading to the Cleveland ABC affiliate – WEWS Channel 5 TV, for the start of an all-day Hurricane Harvey fund raiser.  Only the all-night anchors are here, so there’s plenty of parking spaces to choose from.

graphiconscreenThe studio is all set for us.  Tables are arranged, phones are ready and a large flat screen announces the Red Cross website URL, phone number and text information for a quick pledge.

One-by-one, Red Cross volunteers, employees and even a board member file in and take their place at the tables.  Four shifts are planned, so plenty of people can take part in this 6:00 a.m until 11:00 p.m. phone bank effort.Thursday phonebank

In fact, this is our second phone bank. Three days prior, another group of volunteers manned the phones from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. and were inundated with calls. “It was non-stop calling,” one volunteer said. “As soon as you hung up the call, there was another one ringing on the same line.”

 

Tuesday phone bank

The cameraman comes in and suggests a slight modification to our seating arrangement.  We’ve begun the countdown to going ‘On Air.’

“We’re live in ten seconds,” says the cameraman, and we are off, fielding phone calls from across Northeastern Ohio.

By this time, there’s probably no one in America that hasn’t heard about the devastation being wrought upon Texas and Louisiana.  News anchors compare the total rainfall to the amount of water in Lake Michigan, and another asks you to visualize the amount of water flowing over the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls. Now consider that flow for nine months straight, and you’ve got an idea how much water fell in just a few days in Texas.

“Oh my,” says the first caller. “Thank you for doing this for those poor people.  I only wish I could give more.  They must need so much help.”

Another caller is so distraught that she asks for a few seconds to collect herself, before completing her credit card information.  Actually, many of the callers were quite emotional, knowing the stress and anguish being felt by the thousands of victims.

“I don’t know what those people would do if it weren’t for the Red Cross and the other agencies down there,” says another.  This was a recurrent theme all morning.

By the end of the first shift, you start to compare numbers of callers and amounts raised. Amounts donated ranged from $10 to $1,000 this morning.  Even larger amounts were reported from that first phone bank and possibly will be duplicated later in the day. Northeast Ohio has always been famous for its immense generosity whenever a need like this occurs, and it’s a great privilege to help out those so desperately in need.

You turn over your phone to the next volunteer, already missing the opportunity to talk with more like-minded Ohioans, bound to make a difference for the victims in Texas and Louisiana.

Won’t you join us? The American Red Cross is always looking for more volunteers. Sign up today to donate or to volunteer at http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.