Helping people affected by Hurricane Hanna

Carol Holm of the American Red Cross surveys flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna, in Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Fulfilling our humanitarian mission to alleviate human suffering continues in response to disasters in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, 17 volunteers from across our three-state region are helping people affected by Hurricane Hanna in Texas. These deployments include volunteers like Carol Holm (pictured above and below) who are on-the-ground in Texas while others are responding remotely from home.

In response to Hurricane Hanna, more than 200 Red Cross disaster workers are beginning detailed damage assessment work across Texas, in addition to supporting additional response efforts. Feeding missions are underway in the hardest hit counties where the power has been out and food is unavailable. So far, more than 5,900 meals and snacks have been served with partners. Over 470 overnight shelter and hotel stays have been provided with partners. More than 400 contacts have been made to support any physical, mental health, disability and spiritual needs.

Red Cross volunteers Carol Holm, right, and Marc Lazerow, left, show the Cantu family to their cots at a Red Cross shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Hanna in Edcouch, TX on Tuesday July 28, 2020. Family units are grouped closer together while other cots are spaced further apart for social distance from others to help protect against COVID-19. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Throughout the 2020 hurricane season, dedicated Red Cross relief workers, mostly volunteers, will continue to prepare for and respond to each round of storms providing comfort and care as affected communities assess damage and attempt to return to daily life, amidst the continued struggle against the Coronavirus Outbreak.

We’ve undertaken a suite of risk mitigation activities for our disaster workforce, including prioritizing non-congregate lodging for our responders, mandating the use of face coverings for everyone working at a Red Cross work site, pre-arrival COVID-19 testing when required by the receiving state, departure testing for all deployed workers, and maximizing virtual work.

You can help people affected by disasters like storms and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief or by becoming a Disaster Relief Volunteer. You can donate or start your volunteer journey at redcross.org/mndaks.

Preparedness Has Made the Difference

Joan Egge's family is safe from the Red River’s high waters because of preparedness measures, such as temporary clay dikes. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

By Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross

To appreciate the rising of the Red River, you have to see it. Water appears to spread from horizon to horizon across this northern prairie landscape.

With waters reaching nearly 40 feet in some areas, what would have been a major crisis in past years is mostly a threat under control because of preparation.

For example, clay dikes and sump pumps are protecting many homes, including one in Oakport Township north of Moorhead, Minnesota, where Joan Egge has lived for eighteen years.

“Because we’ve been preparing and preparing you’d kind of hate it if didn’t flood,” says Egge.

Red Cross vigilance remains high as the Red River’s high waters continue to move north and threaten rural communities. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Sandbagging started in early February. Since then the Red Cross has providing more than 150,000 beverages and meals to community volunteers and other responders who have worked to hold back the water both day and night.

“Preparedness is in many ways the greatest piece of what the Red Cross does,” says Tom Tezel, a Red Cross emergency services director leading the response on the ground.

Every disaster is different, but in general the Red Cross responds when the disaster is done, such as when a tornado has swept through a town or an earthquake has struck.

Since early February, Tom Tezel has been leading the Red Cross disaster response to the 2011 Red River flood. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Here, the Red Cross response started during the preparedness phase before the waters started to rise.

“Our mission includes preparedness,” says Tezel. “We can’t wait for disaster.”

Red Cross disaster responders continue to watch and respond, especially as the high water flows north into largely rural areas, cutting off families from essential resources.

Egge, whose family and dog Henry are safe only yards from the Red River, agrees that preparedness is very important. She’s grateful for the help her community has received.

“I know the Red Cross does a wonderful job,” says Egge. “The people here are true heroes.”

Red Cross TC asks: Is the Red Cross ready if it floods?

Jill, our director of emergency services, answers:

A Red Cross volunteer hands out snacks during the flood preparations in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo credit: Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross

We have shelters ready to open their doors for us in the Twin Cities metro area if flooding displaces people from their homes.  We have clean-up kits containing mops, brooms, cleaning supplies, gloves, and other necessities, ready to hand to people who are cleaning up their homes.  We have thousands (literally!) of snacks and bottles of water in our garage, for us and other chapters around the state to share from mobile feeding trucks (ERVs) or at shelters.  We have lots of trained and willing volunteers, many who have stepped forward and have added to their training in recent months so their skills are fresh.  Many, many volunteers have stepped forward to help in all of these efforts so that we’re more ready to quickly help people…whether it floods or not!  So my answer is a resounding, “yes!”

Red Cross TC: Thank you!! We suspected this was the case, but wanted to ask anyway, being the curious types that we are!!

Red Cross “mass care” means food + drink

The Red Cross has served thousands of meals to people working to hold back the rising Red River waters. Right now, Mark Doble, a Red Cross volunteer from the Twin Cities, is up north managing mass care (aka watering and feeding) for this disaster operation.

Mark reports: “In Fargo, we are getting ready to start sandbagging operations. What I mean is that we are going to start feeding people as all of the sand bags that have been pre-made are now being put around the homes. It’s been great here and the Red Cross Minn-Kota Chapter has been wonderful. I’m looking forward to getting home.”

Our mass care man, Mark Doble, up north. Photo credit: Tammie Pech/American Red Cross