The American Red Cross continues to help people impacted by Hurricane Harvey while getting ready to respond as powerful Hurricane Irma nears the United States and its territories. Hurricane Irma is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm on record and people in the possible path of this storm should monitor weather reports and get prepared now. The Red Cross has robust disaster response capabilities, which allow the organization to respond to two significant disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma without compromising the assistance they provide to those in need. When The Red Cross began the response to Harvey over a week ago, they held half their sheltering resources in reserve in the event of a second disaster.

Hurricane Harvey
Though the rain has stopped falling in Texas and Louisiana, river and bayou flooding continues. Officials estimate as many as 135,000 homes may be impacted with more than 22,000 homes receiving major damage. In some areas, people are just beginning to clean up their flooded homes. Meanwhile evacuation orders are still in effect for some areas. Transportation, travel and housing expected to be impacted for an extended period of time.

Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm on record and is currently listed as a Category 5 hurricane, with 185 mph winds. Irma hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands yesterday. In addition, Hurricane Irma will affect numerous Caribbean nations including St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Cuba. The storm has already cut access to some islands and others will face the same challenges. In Florida, evacuations are underway in some areas and all National Guard members are activated. People are already in long gas lines and getting their homes and disaster supplies ready.

Red Cross Response
Hurricane Harvey
In Texas and Louisiana, The Red Cross is doing everything they can to get help where it’s needed. Access to many areas remains challenging but they are expanding their reach into more communities every day. The Red Cross is working around the clock to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Overnight, more than 16,000 people sought refuge in 90 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas. The Red Cross is also assisting the Louisiana state government with emergency shelters, which hosted more than 640 people Tuesday night. Even now, more than 3,100 Red Cross disaster workers have assisted in hurricane relief efforts.

The Red Cross and its partners have served more than 906,000 meals and snacks, as well as…
– Provide care by supporting 26,000 mental health and health services contacts;
– Distribute more than 194,000 relief items like diapers and comfort kits that contain deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items for people forced from their homes; and
– Mobilize more than 190 emergency response vehicles to help deliver meals and relief supplies.

Hurricane Irma
The American Red Cross is mounting a massive response as Irma heads to the United States. Red Cross workers are already hard at work on many island nation’s throughout the storm’s path and even now, with Irma bearing down on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the American Red Cross is already there helping.

To prepare for Hurricane Irma, the American Red Cross has:
– Mobilized relief materials and people in place to respond on the islands and from Florida all the way to the mid-Atlantic region. Plans include being ready to shelter more than 120,000 people.
– Activated 80 emergency response vehicles to support the response.
– Prepositioned 100,000 shelf-stable meals.

Haiti could also be affected, and the American Red Cross and Haitian Red Cross are pre-positioning disaster responders and relief items in areas that will potentially be hit by Hurricane Irma. There are relief supplies and vehicles on the ground and the Red Cross is warning people about the storm before it makes landfall.

More than 26.5 million hurricane and flood alerts have been issued through Red Cross mobile apps since August 23 in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. This app has provided shelter location and real-time information to help people protect themselves and their loved ones.  

Massive disasters like Hurricane Harvey create more needs than any one organization can meet on their own. The Red Cross is working very closely with the entire response community – government agencies, other non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, area businesses and others – to coordinate emergency relief efforts and get help to people as quickly as possible. The Red Cross is working with dozens of disaster partners to support feeding, child care, disaster assessment and other disaster services. Some of the partners we are coordinating with include Americorps NCCC, Church of the Brethren Children’s Disaster Services, Save the Children, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Islamic Relief USA

Hurricane Harvey Recovery
Even as the American Red Cross continues to operate shelters, serve meals and provide critical relief supplies in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, some people are able to return home and the Red Cross will work with individuals and families to help them recover. The Red Cross will help residents start the recovery process by connecting them to services and resources they need. In some cases, the Red Cross may provide financial assistance.

Recovering from a disaster can be a challenging, emotionally draining and complicated process. Each community and each family will have different needs, and will require different support to meet those needs. Red Cross caseworkers connect one-on-one with people to create recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate help from other agencies.

The Red Cross also works with government and nonprofit partners to help develop coordinated community recovery plans and strategies. In some situations, the Red Cross may give grants to partner organizations for specialized activities such as mold remediation or building storm shelters. Our recovery support could also include preparedness activities so people and communities are ready for the next emergency.

(This story was originally published on September 7, 2017)