How to help during hurricane season

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

June 1, 2020- The Atlantic hurricane season 2020 starts June 1 and continues through November 30. According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this year has a 60% chance of being worse than normal.

Predictions include 13 to 19 named storms, of which six to 10 could develop into hurricanes, and three to six of those could develop into major hurricanes, Category 3 to Category 5.

We’ve already seen the first two tropical storms: Arthur, which began on May 16, touching the coast of North Carolina, and Bertha, which gained tropical storm status for a few hours on May 27, making landfall in South Carolina.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

So how can you help?

While Northern Ohio is far from most hurricanes, our volunteers often are called on to provide assistance to areas impacted by violent winds and high floodwaters. And due to new precautions being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, volunteers are needed more than ever to help with responses to large hurricanes and wildfires.

“This year hurricane preparations will be the same—yet different,” said Tim O’Toole, regional disaster officer. “This is due in large measure to working within the COVID-19 environment.”

He said COVID-19 makes everything more complex. “While our preference is to utilize non-congregate sheltering, such as hotel rooms and dormitories, large events such as hurricanes will require us to open congregate shelters. The COVID environment will require us to increase spacing in shelters in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. This means we may need to open more shelters, but with fewer people in them to provide an adequate response.”

Texas Tornadoes 2020

Tim said such a response will require a larger volunteer disaster workforce.  And that more volunteer health workers will be needed, as residents seeking shelter will be required to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

“However, we are trying to reduce the number of workers needed on the ground, and are hoping much of the management and recovery teams can be virtual,” he said. “We have had success with this model in responding to recent tornadoes and flooding in the southern U.S, but hurricanes and wildfires will be the real test.”

Virtual volunteers don’t have to leave their homes. They can perform valuable services doing family reunification work or casework.

All it takes is some free training that the Red Cross will gladly provide. If you start now, you could be trained and ready to help before the next big storm hits. Start your volunteer experience here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

It is time to prepare for spring and summer storm season

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

May 1, 2020- Everyone around the world is understandably focusing on COVID-19 and this new normal we are living. But as we approach the spring and summer storm season, it is important to prepare because emergencies don’t take breaks.

Spring and summer in Northern Ohio ushers in tornado and flood season. This year’s tornado and flood season has already begun to make an impact in the United States.

In what some are calling the deadliest tornado season since 2011, the American Red Cross is responding across multiple states impacted by ongoing severe weather. Hundreds of tornadoes have been reported across the eastern half of the country in April, most of these occurring in the southeast.

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While taking increased precautions during the current public health emergency, the Red Cross is providing shelter, warm meals and emotional support for those with immediate needs after a disaster. Red Cross disaster workers, many of whom are working virtually, are also connecting affected residents to additional community resources to support their recovery.

More than 1,100 people displaced by storms and tornadoes across the Southeast spent Sunday night in 393 hotels across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. This shelter is made available with the help of our valuable hotel partners and community stakeholders. Overall, more than 13,900 hotel stays have been provided to residents displaced by tornadoes and storms since nationwide COVID-19 social distancing measures were put into place.

The Red Cross has provided more than 45,600 meals and snacks. We are working closely with our hotel partners to ensure distribution follows social distancing and safe food handling protocols.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

To ensure everyone across Northern Ohio is prepared, here are some tornado safety tips:

  • Identify a safe place in your home where everyone, including pets, can gather during a tornado: a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor away from windows.
  • Make sure you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts, through streaming a NOAA radio station, or downloading a NOAA radio app in the Apple Store or Google Play.
  • If you are in a high-rise building during a tornado, pick a hallway in the center of the building.
  • In a manufactured home, choose a safe place in a nearby sturdy building.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a storm.

While not common in Northern Ohio, spring and summer also means hurricanes. May 3 to May 9 is considered National Hurricane Awareness Week. Forecasters are warning of an active hurricane season in 2020. Experts are predicting that we could see 20 named storms this year in the Atlantic, making 2020 the second most active season in terms of number of storms.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

If you or a loved one are at a location when a hurricane hits, here are some hurricane preparedness tips:

  • First, talk with your family about what to do if a hurricane strikes. Discussing hurricanes ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  • Protect windows with permanent storm shutters or one-half-inch marine plywood.
  • Identify a place to store lawn furniture, toys, gardening tools and trash cans.
  • Be prepared to evacuate quickly.
  • Make sure you have plenty of clean water for drinking.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for flushing the toilet, washing the floor or cleaning clothing.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
  • When the hurricane makes landfall, be sure to stay indoors.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater.

For more tips, download the hurricane safety checklist.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

Regardless if you are preparing for a hurricane, a tornado or any other storm, be sure to download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for the area and where loved ones live. The Emergency App and all Red Cross apps are available for free download in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

Red Cross continues Hurricane Dorian relief efforts, prepares for future storms

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

September 23, 2019- Three weeks since Hurricane Dorian made landfall devastating the  Bahamas, the Red Cross is continuing to provide relief for those affected by the storm.

There is a very long road ahead for people who have lost everything to Hurricane Dorian. Getting relief to people in the Bahamas and helping people plan their recovery are the American Red Cross’ priorities.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

Thousands of people have evacuated the damaged islands via helicopter, plane and boat. They are staying on different islands with family members or at government-run shelters in the capital city. Some evacuees have joined loved ones in the U.S.

If you have lost contact with a US citizen traveling in the Bahamas, contact the U.S. State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

Families still remain on the devastated islands and are in need of basic relief, such as emergency supplies and hygiene items—which Red Cross teams are distributing on both Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Hurricane Dorian Bahamas 2019

The Red Cross has had to be flexible in our response to this crisis. The changing nature of this disaster—including on which islands affected people are taking shelter—means that aid is being delivered to storm survivors in places not majorly affected by the storm, such as Nassau.

Tele-connectivity challenges mean that many people still haven’t been able to get in touch with loved ones. In shelters, volunteers are helping evacuees make phone calls to their families. When necessary, volunteers are initiating missing persons cases with the hope of tracing loved ones.

Trained psychologists and nurses are providing comfort and mental health support to evacuees coping with emotional distress.

People remaining in communities damaged by Hurricane Dorian need emergency materials and help recovering from the storm. The global Red Cross network has started rolling out a major emergency relief effort.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

Red Cross shelter, water and sanitation, health, logistics, cash-as-aid and other sector specialists are on the ground supporting the Bahamas Red Cross.

There has been an outpouring of support from both the international and local community.

Hurricane Dorian Bahamas 2019

Thus far, the American Red Cross has committed $4.5 million to support those affected in the Bahamas by Dorian.

The American Red Cross has deployed 21 disaster response specialists to provide support to the relief operation in the Bahamas.

The American Red Cross is also working in close coordination with the U.S. government and community partners to support evacuees arriving in the U.S. from the Bahamas immediately following the hurricane.

Hurricane Dorian 2019

The Red Cross also stands ready to help again if the need arises.

Jim Celestino, a health service worker, was one of 20 disaster response workers deployed from Northeast Ohio to the southeast U.S. to assist with Hurricane Dorian. Watch the following video to hear Jim discuss his experience on his first deployment with the Red Cross and his call for others to become Red Cross volunteers:

Currently, we are in the middle of hurricane season, with tropical storms Karen and Jerry fast approaching Puerto Rico, Bermuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Tropical Storm Imelda has also also made landfall, forcing the governor of Texas to declare a state of disaster.

The Red Cross continues to remain prepared to respond to provide relief at a moment’s notice whenever a disaster devastates a community.

Visit redcross.org/donate to help support the Red Cross’ efforts to respond to and assist in the aftermath when the next storm such as Dorian strikes.

Your donation to the Red Cross helps provide food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance during disasters.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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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.

Hurricane graphic 2

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.