American Red Cross, volunteers face 2nd massive hurricane response in the US in less than a month

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
October 12, 2018, 10:47:38 AM EDT

The American Red Cross is helping thousands of people in the Southeast after devastating Hurricane Michael slammed into the Gulf coast as the third-strongest hurricane in United States history.

This is the second massive hurricane response in the southeastern U.S. in less than a month.

Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas in early September, sparking mass relief efforts. The Southeast is still recovering from the storm. Hundreds of those impacted by Florence in the Carolinas remain in shelters as Michael passed through the region late this week.

hurricane michael shelter ap

Earnest Sweet sits while his daughters Terri, 4, center, and Anna, 7, sleep at an evacuation shelter set up at Rutherford High School, in advance of Hurricane Michael, which is expected to make landfall today, in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Thousands of Red Cross volunteers, working alongside partners, have served more than 1.55 million meals and snacks and distributed more than 312,700 relief items like clean-up kits, rakes, shovels, bleach, garbage bags and more to help with the massive clean-up effort in the Carolinas.

The Red Cross is on the ground along the Gulf coast to provide safe shelter and support for evacuees in the wake of Michael.

Hurricane Michael is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Florida’s Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.

The storm had wind speeds of 155 mph, which is strong enough to completely destroy homes and cause widespread power outages.

More than 375,000 people were under evacuation orders, and many schools and colleges are closed along with airports and ports.

Approximately 7,800 people stayed in as many as 95 Red Cross and community evacuation centers across Florida, Georgia and Alabama on Wednesday night.

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“Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by this incredibly powerful storm,” Brad Kieserman, vice president of Disaster Operations and Logistics for the American Red Cross, said in a Red Cross press release. “We’re just beginning to understand the level of destruction, and we know that getting help into some of these areas will be challenging. Right now, our immediate focus is on making sure people have a safe place to stay.”

The Red Cross has mobilized more than 800 trained disaster workers to provide shelter, food, health services and emotional support to those in the affected areas.

In addition, enough shelter supplies, including cots and blankets, were pre-positioned to support some 15,000 people.

“We have hundreds of volunteers on the ground helping with shelter, helping people who needed a safe place to go, who now have a safe place to go,” Anthony Tornetta, Red Cross national spokesperson, said.

The organization is also working with partners to prepare to serve tens of thousands of meals per day. More volunteers, relief supplies, vehicles and other equipment are being mobilized now.

“We’ll be there as we go into the recovery stage as people start to return home to their areas that were impacted,” Tornetta said. “Some will be able to go home, and some will have a more challenging experience, and the Red Cross will be there to help them with that transition process.”

Hurricane Michael destruction Mexico Beach 10-11-2018

People walk amidst destruction on the main street of Mexico Beach, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Ninety percent of the Red Cross are volunteers, which includes the hundreds of people who are helping those impacted.

"They are giving up being at home in the comfort of their own home with family and friends to run to the storm to help those impacted. We can’t do that without the generosity of the American public," Tornetta said.

Thousands of people look to the Red Cross for help, and the organization depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately.

You can help those affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters.

The Red Cross also asks eligible individuals unaffected by Hurricane Michael to give blood to help meet patient needs.

The storm has forced the cancellation of dozens of blood drives, causing approximately 700 units of blood to go uncollected in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. More blood drive cancellations are likely, and low donor turnout is expected in the Southeast over the coming days as communities face expected storm damage and residual flooding.

Before the storm, the Red Cross already had a critical need for blood and platelet donations following Hurricane Florence. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

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