Hurricane Florence: People appreciate the help

Red Cross volunteer Elaine with a family at a shelter in North Carolina. Photo: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

“…all is well. I am loving this, so satisfying. The people have been so appreciative…” — Elaine, Red Cross volunteer

Many thanks to Elaine (in photo) and around 3,000 Red Cross disaster relief workers, including 62 from the Minnesota Red Cross, who are helping people affected by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina.

More national American Red Cross fast facts about our help:

  • Sunday night, more than 15,000 people sought refuge in more than 150 Red Cross and community shelters across the impacted region. This includes 14,200 people in 137 shelters in North Carolina.
  • Working with partners, the Red Cross has served 150,700 meals and snacks. We’re also working with the Southern Baptists to deploy field kitchens that together can produce 170,000 meals per day.
  •  The Red Cross is mobilizing more than 130 emergency response vehicles and more than 70 trailers of equipment and supplies, including ready-to-eat meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 100,000 people.
  • The storm has forced cancellation of more than 170 blood drives, resulting in more than 4,600 uncollected blood and platelet donations.

The Red Cross will continue to work around-the-clock to do everything possible to provide shelter, food, comfort and other emergency support to victims of Hurricane Florence.

Fast Facts are as of September 17, 2018

Spring can bring devastating weather

Spring can be a time for devastating weather. It’s the peak time of year for tornadoes, flooding, thunderstorms and other severe weather.
The American Red Cross wants you to know what steps you can take to stay safe if dangerous weather is predicted for your community.


  • Download the free Red Cross Emergency App. Available in English and Spanish, the app features expert advice on how to prepare and respond to tornadoes, floods and other disasters. It also features real-time local alerts for severe weather and hazards and a map with local Red Cross shelters open when a major disaster happens. You can text GETEMERGENCY to 90999 or search “Red Cross Emergency” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
  • Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be informed. Use Be Red Cross Ready tips in English or Spanish. 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. A great resource is FEMA’s online landing page for people with disabilities.


  • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).
  • During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
  • Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.

Click here for more tornado safety tips.


  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath or shower or use plumbing.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

Click here for more severe thunderstorm safety steps. 


  • Listen to area radio and television stations and a NOAA Weather Radio for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • 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.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Stay away from floodwaters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and less than 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • 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.

Click here for more flood safety tips.

From Florida to the Carolinas

From Florida to the Carolinas, American Red Cross workers from Minnesota have supported Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Assignments have ranged from working in a shelter and serving meals to coordinating with response partners and providing medical and mental health services. Others gathered stories and helped raise money for the response. Big picture number as of October 27: more than 50 Red Cross workers from Minnesota have deployed to areas impacted by the storm across the southeastern United States. Take a look.

14712963_10154611990962179_2000084266616440590_oCarole Madland visited people in shelters and neighborhoods in North Carolina. Sometimes she hitched a ride to reach isolated communities. Overall, the Red Cross mobilized 2,200 workers, 13 kitchens with partners, and 111 response vehicles for the state. Big picture number as of October 25: the Red Cross has mobilized more than 5,800 disaster workers since Hurricane Matthew first threatened communities in the southeast.



Rachel Olmanson took meals to people in affected communities. Above is the view from Rachel’s truck while her team was next in line for food pick-up at a field kitchen in North Carolina. Big picture number as of October 25: the Red Cross and its partners have served more than 1.3 million meals and snacks in affected communities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.


matthew_daveschoeneckIn Florida, Dave Schoeneck (upper left) assisted with relief effort coordination. The Red Cross has worked closely with government officials and non-government organizations (NGOs), such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and others. Big picture number: around 13,000 homes are affected in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.




In South Carolina, Dave Snetsinger (second on right) was a shelter worker. Overall, the Red Cross has had nearly 1,200 workers, 5 kitchens with partners, and 53 response vehicles for relief efforts in the state. Big picture number as of October 25: the Red Cross has helped provide nearly 100,000 overnight shelter stays in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.


Mark and Gail Noren (right and center) are doing search and care, which means finding neighborhoods and people in need of meals and feeding them in North Carolina. Big picture number as of October 25: Red Cross and its partners have served 697,000 meals and snacks across hurricane affected areas in the state.


a9r13mhx5w_h375qp_a98-2In Georgia, Judy Hanne Gonzalez helped gather and share stories about the Red Cross and its Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. Judy also assisted with fundraising in Florida. Big picture number: as of October 25, the Red Cross has raised $8.1 million in designated donations and pledges for a relief response that’s estimated to cost $24-$28 million.

Thank you to everyone who has responded to the Hurricane Matthew relief efforts!

Essential Red Cross Work: Disaster Services Technology

Story and photos by Jonathan Yoon/American Red Cross

Disaster Services Technology (DST) plays an important role in American Red Cross relief operations. This past June, I had the opportunity to spend time with Red Cross volunteers who were training as DST responders.

During the three-day training in Minneapolis, volunteers were given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with experienced DST responders. From novice to expert, every member had an essential role in order to ensure a continuous, successful relief effort. They learned how to use satellite technology to stand-up communications. After a computer network is built, other relief workers, mostly volunteers, can use electronics, like laptops and radios, for various means of communication while responding to a disaster. Additionally, DST training focuses on volunteers learning how to work together as an early response team to catastrophic events.

American Red Cross trainees, Debbie Johnson and Phyllis Wiggins, checking supplies for disaster services technology operations during a practice run
Red Cross volunteers Debbie Johnson and Phyllis Wiggins checking supplies for disaster services technology operations.

The DST team is the forefront of Red Cross communications. By setting up satellite connectivity, these volunteers make sure the Red Cross will be ready to help a community and its people when they’re affected by a major disaster. One of the instructors commented, “Imagine all communications are down. You can’t call or text. We can setup a network for laptops and cell phones, and make a response headquarters.” Without the DST team, there would be no way for the Red Cross to stand-up a relief operation from its core. Their essential work builds the foundation for response efforts.

Red Cross DST volunteers learning how to fix a disaster relief vehicle antenna.

Another volunteer, Jane Lazarevic, who has four years of experience on a DST team, was back for a review session. “I was deployed to St. Louis this past January for two weeks during a disaster response, working for DST and staff.” I was fortunate enough to hear about her experience responding to the flooding relief effort earlier this year. It was incredible to hear her testimony about how she was able to help others as a DST volunteer in addition to her regular life routine back home.

So what’s next for these trainees? While summer brings sun and fun, these volunteers are ready to respond to hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and tornadoes. The next time you see or hear about the Red Cross, think about what’s happening behind-the-scenes to make the response happen. You might even feel the urge to become a DST volunteer. Click here to learn more about the Red Cross and volunteer opportunities.

Everybody (including the Red Cross) loves Donna

Story and photos by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Donna Parrish lost her home of 30 years in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, during a fire on June 3, 2016
Donna Parrish lost her home of 30 years in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, during a fire on June 3, 2016

Among the dozens of people displaced by the five-alarm (big and powerful) fire in the very early morning hours of June 3 in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, is Donna Parrish.

Donna, who’s old enough to have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, has lived at Beach South Apartments for 30 years. Hers is a home now gone, literally it was burned through and through.

Her memory of the beginning is waking after midnight and hearing a crackling sound that she thought was hail –a storm, after all, was expected to arrive in the next twenty-four hour period. But the sounds were no storm of weather. She went to look out the blinds, through the window, into the darkness. Smoke and sparks are what she saw. And someone with a fire extinguisher, she says.

The most burned units at Beach South Apartments in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, June 3, 2016
The most burned units at Beach South Apartments in Robbinsdale, Minnesota

Moments later a pounding on the door announced that escape from the burning building was necessary right then, without hesitation. She fled with only her pajamas and slippers. I’ll have to take some quiet time to assess what’s next, she says.

Karri Solum and her mom Donna Parrish will need to find a new home after their apartment burned.
Karri Solum and her mom Donna Parrish after their apartment burned

Dozens of people are displaced because of this fire. Some will never return while others will have to wait for the smoke to clear and repairs to happen.

Red Cross volunteers are helping Donna, her daughter, and each of the others affected by this disaster get back their lives.

Learn more about American Red Cross disaster relief.

National VOAD honors Minnesota Red Cross disaster relief worker

Red Cross disaster worker Ruth Talford received the 2016 NVOAD Spirit Award. Photo: Megan Mrozek/American Red Cross

We are pleased to announce that Ruth Talford, a disaster relief worker with the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, received the 2016 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Spirit Award. This award is given each year to a person who has exhibited outstanding commitment to the NVOAD movement. The award was presented to Ms. Talford during the NVOAD conference held in Minneapolis in late May. Conference participants included more than 400 people representing voluntary organizations from that respond to disasters around the country in a variety of ways, such as feeding, cleaning, and spiritual care. The Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross, the national American Red Cross, and other Red Cross regions were well-represented with several dozen disaster relief workers on-hand. This year’s conference service project was a Red Cross blood drive. Click here to learn more about NVOAD and click here to learn more about the MNVOAD.

In pictures : Red Cross responds to flooding in Louisiana

Hundreds of Red Cross workers are operating shelters and providing meals, relief supplies and health and mental health services in four southern states where thousands of people have been forced from their homes by floodwaters, many leaving with little but the clothes on their backs. More than 380 people spent Sunday, March 13, in 30 Red Cross and community shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.

Volunteers like Ethel Payne of Monroe, Louisiana, help provide comfort for families staying at Red Cross shelters. Volunteers often come prepared with toys and activities for children at shelters, which helps make them feel safe during difficult times. Flooding_LouisianaCima1








When Terina Smith, Michael Stevenson and their three small children were rescued from floodwaters in Monroe, Louisiana, they found safety at a Red Cross shelter. Volunteer Ethel Payne has helped provide comfort and lifted their spirits during their time at the shelter. Flooding_LouisianaCima2








Clifton Winsor has lived by himself in his Rayville, Louisiana, home since his wife’s passing in 2013. At 87, he’s lived through a lot, but this is the first time his home has flooded. Now, he looks toward the future. “At my age, it’s hard enough to think about what happens next after something like this,” he says with tears in his eyes, “but facing it alone without my wife makes it even harder.”Flooding_LouisianaCima5








The American Red Cross delivered water and snacks to neighborhoods affected by flooding in Rayville, Louisiana. For many residents, it was the first day they were able to get back into their homes to assess damage.








When Carroll Taylor saw the water rising in the backyard of her West Monroe, Louisiana, home, she knew she had to leave. When she came back the next night, she found about 6 inches of water had entered her living room. When the Red Cross came through her neighborhood, she had spent two days pulling carpeting out of her home, bleaching her walls and cleaning the concrete floor below. “I was mad that this happened to me at first, but then I realized I was lucky,” she says. “I didn’t get it as bad as others – and I won’t need as much as others – but I’m so grateful that the Red Cross is here to help those who will need it.”Flooding_LouisianaCima7








You can help people affected by disasters, such as the current flooding and countless other crises, by making a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. You can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. To learn more about the Red Cross relief effort across flood-affected areas, click here.

Photos by Daniel Cima. Captions by April Phillips.