In a busy year filled with hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and deadly windstorms, the American Red Cross responded to 113 large-sale disasters in 42 states and territories from Alaska to Florida between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 1, 2012. Additionally, 14 Southwestern New York volunteers deployed across the country to assist in disasters throughout 2012.
"Hurricane Sandy dominated the news coverage, but it wasn't the only disaster that disrupted lives in 2012," said Bill Tucker, American Red Cross of Southwestern New York Executive Director. "The number of lives affected by large disasters in the past year is simply staggering. The Red Cross responded to devastating hurricanes, flooding and wildfires that wiped out entire neighborhoods, offering people shelter, food and comfort."
Disasters struck across the country, from the East Coast to the West, and few regions were spared.
Throughout the year, the Red Cross opened a total of 907 shelters and provided more than 109,000 overnight stays to help people forced from their homes. In total, more than 29,000 trained disaster workers served 9.9 million meals and snacks and distributed more than 6.8 million relief items. Health and mental health workers provided more than 141,000 consultations to help people on the road to recovery.
The Red Cross also responded to tragic events that impacted people's lives in the last year, most recently the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as the mass shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. in July and at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. in August. In all three responses, the Red Cross provided emotional and mental health support, as well as food and drinks for first responders.
In June, Tropical Storm Debby marked the start of hurricane season by causing widespread flooding across much of Florida. Then in late August, Hurricane Isaac came ashore bringing with it strong winds and drenching rain that impacted Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In response to Isaac, the Red Cross mobilized thousands of disaster workers to help people by opening 157 shelters, providing thousands of overnight stays. Volunteers served hundreds of thousands of meals, distributed more than 140,000 relief items and provided thousands of health and mental health contacts.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall along the Atlantic seaboard in late October, leaving massive devastation in its wake. In all, 11 states and Puerto Rico felt the impact with New York and New Jersey seeing the most devastation. The large Red Cross relief effort continues today, weeks after the storm's landfall. As of Dec. 1, more than 15,300 trained disaster workers mobilized to provide help. The Red Cross has handed out millions of relief items and meals, and provided tens of thousands of health and emotional support contacts to people whose lives have been turned upside down. Even as relief work continues, the Red Cross will be on the ground supporting recovery efforts for some time.
In early March, as many as 95 confirmed tornadoes touched down, destroying communities across the Midwest and Southeast. Tornadoes slammed through the Dallas-Fort Worth area in early April, and in mid-April, dozens of tornadoes ripped across the Midwest for a second time.
In all, severe spring weather affected communities in 16 states, including Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas. The Red Cross launched responses to provide safe shelter, warm meals and relief supplies to people forced from their homes. Disaster workers served nearly a quarter of a million meals and snacks and handed out more than 112,000 relief items like cleaning supplies and comfort kits.
A string of storms with winds up to 90 mph swept across Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio and the District of Columbia in June, bringing with them hundreds of reports of impact from devastating winds. Millions were without power in sweltering areas as high temperatures broke records. The Red Cross provided thousands of overnight stays in more than 70 shelters, served more than 246,000 meals and snacks and distributed about 128,000 relief items.
Dry conditions fueled devastating wildfires across the western part of the country, forcing evacuations and destroying homes. In response, the Red Cross launched wildfire relief operations in nine states including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington and California. The Red Cross provided nearly 4,000 overnight stays in shelters, served more than 159,000 meals and snacks, and handed out tens of thousands of relief items to people in need.
The American Red Cross helped almost 3 million people around the world in 2012, responding to 13 disasters in more than 20 countries. These included floods in Bolivia, Peru, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Panama. Assistance was also sent to Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Mali and Malawi to help people affected by food shortages, as well as a drought in Paraguay. Red Cross workers are also responding to help people affected by civil unrest in Syria and a cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone. The American Red Cross responded in Jamaica and Haiti after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in those countries.
The Red Cross (www.redcross.org) thanks everyone who has supported disaster relief operations this year. Every nine minutes the Red Cross responds to a disaster in communities across the country, and whether it's a hurricane or a fire in someone's home, the Red Cross is there.
The Red Cross also provides 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families - in war zones, military hospitals and on military installations around the world; collects and distributes more than 40 percent of the nation's blood supply and trains more than 9 million people in first aid, water safety and other life-saving skills every year.
To support the Red Cross mission and help those in need, visit www.redcross.org/swny or call the local Red Cross offices in Jamestown at 325 E. Fourth St., at 664-5115, Olean at 452 N. Barry St., at 372-5800, or in Wellsville, 112 N. Main St., at 585-593-1531.
The American Red Cross of Southwestern New York is a United Way Agency.