Story: Tropical Storm Isaac Leaves Its Mark On Arkansas

September 2, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross worker Brigette Williams.

Hurricane Isaac AZ
Disaster Team volunteer Becca White notes damage to the property.

Hurricane Isaac, now downgraded as a tropical depression, continues to make its presence felt nationally, after a perplexing and slow moving destructive dance through Mississippi and Louisiana. Unwelcomed movement continued across Arkansas as drenching rains dropped as much as eight inches in many areas Thursday. Record breaking rains caused the National Weather Service to issue a five hour emergency flash flood warning for several counties in southeastern Arkansas Friday. Portions of the state was also under a tornado watch.

One of the hardest hit areas, Pine Bluff, 40 miles southeast of Little Rock, endured more than four feet of flood waters Friday morning, causing at least two cars to float down highway 63, and major complication to school buses maneuvering around flooded roads. Water rescues were made to aid residents caught in the fast moving event. “As long as I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen this much water downtown,” stated American Red Cross In Arkansas Disaster Zone Manager Michele Metott-Works. Streets surrounding the Pine Bluff Red Cross office were filled with rushing water. The office was not damaged.

At least eighteen homes in Pine Bluff have been identified with flood waters inside the structures. Red Cross damage assessment was interrupted as another series of Isaac caused storms moved across the area Friday evening, causing the National Weather Service to place several counties under the morning emergency flash flood warnings, back under a flash flood alert. Disaster Teams will be out today to complete assessment.


Disaster Alert: Tropical Storm Isaac

August 24, 2012

Caribbean — Tropical Storm Isaac is sustaining winds of over 40mph as it continues to move across the Caribbean Sea. Currently just south of the Dominican Republic, the storm is expected to make landfall over the island of Hispaniola – home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti – around Friday evening. Some islands, including St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, reported high waves and minor flooding as the storm passed through earlier in the week. 

Disaster Emergency Response Teams have been placed on standby in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the American Red Cross has prepositioned emergency relief supplies to reach 5,000 families in the region if needed.    

Disaster Alert: Tropical Storm Isaac

August 23, 2012

Caribbean — Red Cross societies throughout the Caribbean are on high alert as tropical storm Isaac moves westward across the Caribbean Sea.  Currently just south of Puerto Rico, the storm is expected to increase to hurricane strength before making landfall over the island of Hispaniola – home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti – around Friday afternoon.

Disaster Emergency Response Teams have been placed on standby in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the American Red Cross has prepositioned emergency relief supplies to reach 5,000 families in the region if needed.    

PRESS RELEASE: American Red Cross Opening Shelters in FL as Isaac Moves North

August 26, 2012

People in Other Gulf Coast States Urged to Prepare for Storm

WASHINGTON, August 26, 2012 —As Tropical Storm Isaac marches north, the American Red Cross opened shelters in Florida today and is prepared for widespread flooding and sheltering a large number of people throughout the state.

“The Red Cross is helping people in Florida who are being affected by the storm, and we urge those throughout the state and the Gulf Coast region who are in Isaac’s projected path to take preparedness steps now,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of disaster services. “The Red Cross is preparing for what could be a large disaster response across multiple states over the next several weeks.”

The Red Cross has deployed more than 1,000 disaster workers throughout Florida and has materials and supplies positioned for use, including pre-stocking 30,000 ready-to-eat meals in Florida and two mobile kitchens sent to the state.

With Isaac’s effects already being felt in parts of the state, people in Florida should stay informed on the storm’s progress from the National Weather Service. As the storm approaches, people should be prepared to evacuate if directed to do so by authorities.

As of noon, the Red Cross has nearly 20 shelters already open in Florida and is poised to open more as necessary. If someone needs to find a Red Cross shelter, they can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or check their local television, radio and newspaper.

It’s also important to stay in touch with family and friends, and the Red Cross Safe and Well website is a secure and easy-to-use online tool that helps families connect during emergencies. To register, visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross also is mobilizing disaster workers, emergency vehicles, mobile kitchens and relief supplies to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi as Isaac is expected to move into that area in the next few days. The Red Cross is urging residents in areas that could be affected by the storm to be preparing now.

Isaac is expected to cause serious flooding throughout the region, and people can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at

STORY: Isaac volunteers share what inspired them to join Red Cross

August 25, 2012

Isaac: Volunteers Behula Guydon and Laura Smelski Share Their Red Cross Experiences While Waiting For Orientation To Begin

Story by Jennifer Ramieh

It was Hurricane Katrina that inspired Mental Health volunteer Behula Guydon to join the American Red Cross. An already planned family reunion was bringing several of her relatives from New Orleans to Grand Rapids, MI when the recommended evacuation was issued. “They called me and said we are grabbing what we can and are headed your way,” says Behula. “I had 15 of my family members stay with us more than a month until it was safe for them to return home. That’s when I decided I needed to get involved.”

While Behula has been actively volunteering in her home chapter, this is her first national assignment. Her husband, Paul is very supportive and knows that this is her passion. She is not sure what to expect with Hurricane Isaac but is looking forward to the chance to do the work that the Red Cross does.

It was also Hurricane Katrina that drove Health Services volunteer Laura Smelski to want to help people. Now with her kids grown, she has seized the opportunity to help people. “This is on my bucket list, to get out in the community and help people,” says Laura.

This is Laura’s second trip to Florida from her hometown of Syracuse, NY for the Red Cross in the last month. She returned home only a few weeks ago from Gainesville where she was on assignment from Tropical Storm Debby.

Video: Florida’s Southern Gulf Red Cross Prepping For Isaac

August 25, 2012

Red Cross communicator Colin Downey discusses preparations underway in southwest Florida as Tropical Storm Isaac continues to threaten the state. The Red Cross is continuing to position supplies, people and other resources and hopes area residents continue taking proper precautions. A complete list of hurricane kit items, tips on developing a plan and staying informed are available on

STORY: Shelley, Vernon and the Red Cross caseworkers

September 4, 2012

Isaac: Hattiesburg, MS
The shelter at Forest Community Center in Hattiesburg had been open for three nights when one of the residents complained of severe pain. The nurse on duty called 911 to report a case of appendicitis and emergency personnel rushed Shelley to the hospital. During her convalescence at the hospital, American Red Cross nurses made it a point to check in on her. Shelley soon returned to the shelter and to her husband Vernon. Soon after that, together they sat with a caseworker to chart a course that would enable them to recover not only her health but their life before it got disrupted by Hurricane Isaac.

Isaac: Hattiesburg, MS
When Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaac left the state of Mississippi, American Red Cross caseworkers made their way to the shelters. There, a caseworker meets one-on-one with an evacuee to gather pre- and post-disaster information. The meetings occur daily with caseworkers discussing options for getting evacuees back on their feet. The “Road To Recovery” booklet serves as a checklist for information and referrals that connect evacuees to the community. Client casework supervisor Gary Gardner praised Vernon for seriously following the instructions in the booklet.

Isaac: Hattiesburg, MS
Another tool caseworkers put to good use is Safe-and-Well. Gardner tells of a man registering at the shelter and letting our workers know he did not know what happened to his ex-girlfriend and infant daughter. “Caseworkers found them using Safe-and-Well and now he’s smiling like a Cheshire cat,” says Gardner.

Isaac: Hattiesburg, MS

Story: Red Cross Volunteers: First Here, Then There

September 2, 2012

This story is written by Red Cross worker Jerry Kindle.

Hundreds of people sought shelter from the American Red Cross as Tropical Storm Isaac began its move into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening communities throughout Florida with its winds and rain. Chapters all across the state prepared, and then opened, evacuation shelters as the threat became certain.

Disaster response such as this doesn’t just happen – it takes forethought, planning, and good old-fashioned hard work. While much of the thought and planning takes place months in advance, a lot of the work happens over the days just prior to the event. In Pensacola, FL, preparation began while Isaac was still in the Atlantic. Shelter locations were identified, supplies were gathered, and disaster workers were polled – then put on notice so they could complete preparations at home before moving into place to help others.

Why do they do it? Why do Red Cross volunteers spend hours and days planning and preparing, then leave their homes and take time away from families and friends to help when disasters threaten or strike? For Charlie Brower, the answer is easy: “I like to help people.” He especially likes being one of the first ones there to help.

As Isaac approached Florida, Brower did whatever task needed to be done. He helped gather supplies for the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and did a lot of “running around,” as he called it, helping to get the chapter’s 16 shelters ready to go. Later, as the storm moved further west and the need for shelters diminished, Brower helped move supplies and equipment back to the warehouse and repack shelter trailers, so they’ll be ready to go if needed again.


Disaster Alert: Severe Weather in Texas

August 28, 2012

Disaster Alert

Texas – Evacuees from neighboring states may arrive today due to Tropical Storm Isaac. The forecast track shows that portions of the state may be affected later this week as Isaac travels further northward.

The North Texas Region deployed team members and opened three shelters for possible evacuees as well as conducting call downs to place additional human and material resources on standby in anticipation of TS Isaac.

Disaster Alert: Severe Weather in Alabama / Louisiana / Mississippi

August 28, 2012

Disaster Alert

Alabama / Louisiana / Mississippi – Tropical Storm Isaac threatened residents in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi as it moves closer towards the gulf states. A State of Emergency has been declared and mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the coastal flood prone areas in all three states.

Disaster Relief Operations in the three states opened numerous shelters, supported others and provided assistance as needed to hundreds of evacuees.


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