This information was last updated on Tuesday, January 31 at 11:00 a.m.Please check back regularly for updates.
As Californians continue cleaning up after the weeks of severe weather at the beginning of January, the American Red Cross is helping and will also be there in the days and weeks to come, supporting people as they move towards recovery.
This online story map offers a look at the ongoing response to the California floods. Since New Year’s eve:
Almost 800 trained Red Cross disaster workers are supporting people in California.
The Red Cross and partners have provided more than 9,300 stays in more than 80 shelters, more than 62,400 meals and snacks, and distributed more than 14,700 relief items such as comfort kits and other relief supplies.
Trained Red Cross volunteers are helping families cope during this challenging time and replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment like canes and wheelchairs.
Teams on the ground are also conducting damage assessments to determine the impact of these storms and which communities will need additional support moving forward. Preliminary damage reports indicate that of the 5879 total assessments done to date, 134 homes were either destroyed or suffered major damage.
We Need You!
While trained Red Cross volunteers and staff continue to manage the response efforts, we are looking for additional volunteers to help with disaster response and recovery activities, including feeding, supply distribution, clean-up kit building and more. Apply online to become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting tinyurl.com/ARC2023FloodsApplication if you are interested in helping with this response or responses like this in the future.
Blood During Disasters
The Red Cross is working to maintain a stable blood supply amid the threat of storms and winter weather across the country, as severe weather often causes widespread blood drive cancellations. Where it is safe to do so, we encourage donors to make and keep blood donation appointments by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Help Those in Need
You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief.Donations for Disaster Relief enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation..
Stay Up-to-Date on Social Media
Updated information on the Red Cross response to this storm, and preparedness information is continually updated on regional social media channels:
Hundreds of American Red Cross disaster workers are in California, helping people impacted by this two-week stretch of back-to-back severe weather.
The relentless storms have caused flooding, landslides, power outages, severe damage to roadways and numerous evacuations from one end of the state to the other. Almost 470 trained Red Cross disaster workers are helping people in California. Here are some of their stories.
“We enjoy having different scenery from our retired life,” says Lillian, who is serving meals with her husband at the Red Cross shelter in San José that was opened in response to flooding in the area.
“We don’t like sitting around,” says Jeff, and so they volunteer together here and also deliver blood donations to hospitals three days per week for the Red Cross.
“Lots of listening.”
That is what Gale, a retired Nurse, says is a big part of her day as an American Red Cross disaster health services volunteer in San José.
“I am helping people by listening, or helping them get lost medications, helping them get a cane or a walker,” says Gale.
“They want to know that somebody is here to support them.”
Gail Carli, San Mateo Volunteer
“This is my first rodeo,” says American Red Cross volunteer Fernando. It’s his first time volunteering at a shelter set up in response to flooding in San José.
“I am impressed by how many people are willing to volunteer from other states, to come out from their homes and help us in California,” he says.
Fernando is part of a team of volunteers from across America who are providing beds and meals to people impacted by flooding.
“When I go home I lock myself in the house to decompress and think about what I have been through,” Anthony says, of how he deals with the hardest parts of volunteering in disaster areas.
Anthony has experienced the emotional ups and downs of being an American Red Cross volunteer numerous times, helping in shelters and assessing damage to people’s homes after disasters.
Anthony flew into San José this week from West Virginia to help at a shelter at Seven Trees Community Center for people who have been affected by flooding.
But it’s not all tough times as a volunteer. The best parts include travel to new places, sightseeing when off duty and visiting friends in other cities, according to Anthony.
“I jam in some fun every time,” he says.
After Lisa finishes her shift as a Disaster Health Services volunteer for the American Red Cross, she will catch a few good hours of sleep and then wake up at 4:30 am to get to her day job as a Registered Nurse in a hospital caring for children after surgery.
How does she do it all?
“I just figure out how to juggle it because it’s important to me,” she says. “These people are in an incredibly challenging situation,” she says about the residents seeking refuge from flooding across California.
The Red Cross relies on people like Lillian, Jeff, Gail, Fernado, Anthony and hundreds more volunteers who offer shelter and compassion to people affected by disasters please visit redcross.org/volunteer.
Volunteer John Sternberg flew to California from Kentucky to help with the Red Cross response to the powerful storms and flooding. John joined other Red Crossers to help set up a shelter at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. He also welcomed new shelter clients and got them settled in with a cot and a blanket.
“We’ve met everybody in the shelter here. I’ve talked with them and dealt with them.” Volunteers are available to listen to evacuees’ experiences and help them begin to recover and process the experience they went through.
Volunteer Andy Witthohn of Santa Rosa also is working in the shelter. He and his wife Betsy first volunteered with the Red Cross in 2017 when the devastating Tubbs fire swept through Sonoma County.
“There was a disaster headquarters and we walked in and said ‘what can we do?’”
Andy sorted clothing, drove supply trucks and distributed food and cleanup kits to fire-ravaged neighborhoods.
“It was very tough. Friends of mine lost their homes. It was very difficult.”
Now during the California floods, Betsy is working at Disaster Headquarters while Andy is in the Santa Rosa shelter, serving up food with a smile and friendly conversation. The people staying in the shelter say they are thankful for people like John and Andy.
“Amazing. I’m very grateful,” says Erick Langbehn. “I just needed someplace to get out of the rain for a little bit. I can’t sleep in my car. It’s a Challenger so that’d be a little hard he says, laughing. “If this wasn’t here, then I don’t know what I’d do.”
Wajeeda Curtiss of Guerneville is staying in the shelter with her teenaged son. Her apartment building sits safely above the Russian River, but they lost power days ago. “We stayed in a hotel a couple of nights but I didn’t want to use up my money for a hotel, so I decided to just come here.”
Wajeeda says she has been homeless in the past, and that she is grateful for this temporary home with the Red Cross. “Just be thankful for what you do have. The food here’s good. I can’t complain. I like that they always have water and snacks, something available.”
Everyone is welcome to take refuge inside the Red Cross shelters, as the storms continue to pound the region.
To find a shelter, or to learn how you can help those hit hard by the rain and floods, visit redcross.org, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.
How the tragic loss of their daughter inspired Dennis and Virgie Roy to volunteer for the Red Cross
“I feel so grateful and blessed that God gave us a daughter like that, so I said I will continue what she started. She had a big heart.”
Virgie Roy is talking about her daughter, Patricia. On August 4, 2017, just three days after her 22nd birthday, Patricia Roy died in a car accident. An Airman First Class and Cargo Specialist at Travis Air Force Base, Patricia had plans to become a nurse, following in her mother’s footsteps.
Virgie and Dennis Roy say their daughter was a leader and a shining light in her workplace, the 60th Aerial Port Squadron (APS).
“Every time I would visit her workplace, her colleagues would say, ‘Oh we haven’t seen your daughter angry,’” says Virgie. “She’s always smiling, even if she’s busy and then if there’s a staff who is not happy, my daughter would just approach her and say ‘are you ok? Do you need some prayers?’“
Dennis Roy says those memories of his daughter prompted him to sign up to volunteer for the Red Cross in 2020.
“I got inspired by a lot of testimonies coming from the colleagues of Patricia, those virtues of being kind-hearted, service-oriented.”
The Roy family came to the United States from the Philippines in 2014, when Virgie was accepted into a program for foreign-trained nurses.
They were excited for their daughter and two sons to grow up in the U.S.
For Virgie, becoming a nurse was a natural step. Her mother is a doctor in the Philippines, and a Red Cross volunteer. Virgie worked in her mother’s medical clinic and joined in those volunteer missions.
“Since grade school, high school, I was already involved in this,” laughs Virgie. “I’m holding the first aid kit (laughing), I’m doing the vital signs, I was young then but I could do some of the easy jobs.”
Now, Virgie works in the Surgery Center at David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.
“The 60th APS, the squadron of my daughter, became our second family. So I said I think it will give me comfort if I can see some of her colleagues.”
Dennis works in a skilled nursing facility, supervising the clinical documentation, and assisting the Director of Nursing. He also donates his time to the Red Cross.
“When we came here in the U.S. our orientation was mainly focused on material opportunities, which is basically human nature. We wanted to have a house like this, we wanted travel, we wanted to acquire cars, etc.”
He says the loss of his daughter changed his perspective.
“It made me think to follow that kind of legacy, I should probably give back to communities that have given us so much.”
Last year, Virgie joined Dennis in volunteering for the Red Cross. This year, she walked in the Veterans Day Parade in Fairfield, handing out thank you cards to veterans.
“It’s really heart-warming. I was smiling all throughout, waving and saying ‘thank you for your service, sir,’ and you know, you can see their smiles, they’re also very happy that we appreciate their service.”
Dennis and Virgie both also volunteered with the Red Cross during San Francisco’s Fleet Week in 2022, demonstrating CPR and basic life support. They’ve also helped out at the Air Show at Travis AFB. Now, they’ve become informal “recruiters,” encouraging others to join the Red Cross:
“Some of my colleagues at work want to volunteer with the Red Cross. You know, when you post something on Facebook and they see your pictures, they say, ‘hey, how did you do that?’ So we tell them, you simply go to the Red Cross website and register yourself. It’s easy!”
Now Dennis is applying to nursing school in his daughter’s memory.
“Her hard work and sacrifices really inspired me to push through in pursuing her aspirations.”
The Roys also volunteer with the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces team at Travis AFB, where they feel a special connection. Every year, they celebrate Patricia’s birthday with her former squadron, and this year, the base named the lobby of the 60th APS Squadron The Patricia Roy Memorial Gateway.
“We are so extremely grateful for all these wonderful opportunities that Red Cross has given to us,” says Dennis, “and for being able to pursue a kind of sweet and honorable legacy of doing service for our community members.”
A veteran’s transition to civilian life can be tough and sometimes it becomes hard to find a purpose in serving after leaving the U.S. military. But for many veterans, volunteering and responding to community needs is a way to share comradery and apply their unique skills and talents to the needs of their local neighborhood.
On this Veterans Day, we’d like to recognize all the Red Crossers who continue their service after service across the Northern California Coastal Region.
We are honored to have all of them on our team – across counties and lines of service, and we proudly present some of their unique stories:
Daniella Zapata Regional Business Operations Coordinator
At 17 years old, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps to serve our country. It was my first experience doing something for the greater good and it taught me to think beyond myself and to look out for those around me. On my first day of bootcamp, I was introduced to the Red Cross and its services to our armed forces. A Red Cross card was handed to me to fill out with all the contact information for my unit. This tool would be used by my family if they needed to contact me. The Red Cross would quickly pass on information in case of emergency. Military training was intense, but I had the comfort of knowing that my family could find me if needed.
While in the fleet, I had the pleasure of working as an embark and logistics specialist where I learned valuable skills that continued to be of use after my military service – discipline, hard work and the importance of integrity.
In 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit our nation and I felt an overwhelming need to help. The news showed immense devastation and volunteers from the Red Cross were already on-site providing comfort and relief. I immediately checked in with our local Red Cross office, which was buzzing with community members taking various trainings, ready to lend a hand. This was my calling; I knew my experience moving resources in the Marine Corps could be used to help with disaster relief efforts. Within a few weeks, I had taken all the classes needed and was deployed to Texas. The service I was able to provide alongside thousands of other volunteers was immeasurable. We looked into the eyes of those who lost so much and through generous donations from across the nation, we were able to provide hope.
Those moments sparked something in me that has continued to fuel my passion for service through the Red Cross for the past 17 years. Every day I get to work alongside community members who volunteer their time and talents to support our military personnel, assist families after a disaster, provide lifesaving blood, and so much more. I am honored to have the opportunity to continue serving our beloved country.
Diane St. Denis Pacific Division Disaster Health Services Advisor
I spent 3 years in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and it was there that I realized how little I knew about the world. I also saw discrimination and limitations on what I, as a young woman, could expect as far as deployment opportunities, but also made lifelong friends, saw the Blue Angels up close and personal, and met the love of my life, my partner in crime, my Marine, my husband.
As a naive 18-year-old (who thought I was very worldly), I joined the Navy with no idea what to expect – I only knew that I wasn’t ready to do the college thing. After a battery of tests, I was told I was going to Air Traffic Controller “A” school after bootcamp.
I was promoted to AC3, learned how to handle a stressful but exciting job, and how to live on a minuscule paycheck. To this day, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is a meal near and dear to my heart. All of the experiences I had in the Navy molded much of my future and made me realize how blessed I am to have learned the value of service to others.
After my discharge from the Navy and getting married, I found a job as a police dispatcher, utilizing the skills I learned in my time in service, but I finally recognized that my life was really meant to be in healthcare. Parenthood delayed my nursing education, and it took many years before I finally obtained my nursing license, but it was worth the wait. Nursing is what I was meant to do all along. I joined the Red Cross while I was in Nursing School, and I haven’t looked back.
I have seen many changes in Red Cross over the years. My training in the Navy taught me to deal with adversity, change direction on a dime, value friendships, the importance of organization, and believing in the mission.
I eventually became the Disaster Health Services Lead for my Red Cross Chapter and was later appointed the advisor for the Pacific Division. At some point, I will relinquish the advisor role, and when I do, hope to have more time so that I can become more active in Service to the Armed Forces and serve our military community.
Reflecting on early my life, I learned the value of giving to others from my parents, particularly my mother. The Red Cross allowed me to utilize my nursing skills while helping others in need.
I have devoted myself to a life of service, including volunteering for organizations outside the Red Cross. It all started by serving my country and I continue to do that through my service in the Red Cross. And, like most of us that volunteer, I couldn’t do it without the support of my family. Their support of the mission and my passion allow me to do all that I do.
Kathleen Lenihan Services to the Armed Force Volunteer Partner
I joined the Army Nurse program in 1970 when I was still in nursing school. After graduation I was lucky to be stationed stateside at Fort Ord, California, for a year and then at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco. I was the first army nurse to have a baby and stay on active duty at the Letterman Army Medical Center.
After I was released from active duty, I joined the Army Reserve and provided medical support to the active duty who were in training. We also set up a combat support hospital in various areas of the U.S. and provided medical care for those who were ill or injured during their time in the field.
While I was on one of these training missions, we had a briefing from a Red Cross volunteer who gave us the number for the Hero Care Center to give to our family members. My son was 17 at the time and staying home alone, having this number was a relief. If he needed to get a message to me, he was able to do it through the Hero Care Center, so in my personal experience, it does work.
One of the highlights of my Army Reserve training was going on a medical mission to a small town in the northern Andes mountains, called Cajamarca (Perú), at 9,000ft height. We went there for two and a half weeks and provided medical care to the local residents. We also brought along our veterinary team to provide veterinary care to the animals. Most people don’t realize the number of medical missions that the U.S. military provides throughout the years to countries that have very little medical or veterinary care.
Kathleen is now the Volunteer Partner for the region’s Service to the Armed Forces team, she is a Red Cross representative at the VA Hospital in San Francisco, and she is a member of the Disaster Health Services team, deploying to support people affected by disasters big and small.
Larry Dietz Regional Public Affairs Volunteer Partner
I began my military service in September 1963 when I joined Reserve Officers Training Corps at Northeastern University, Boston. It was either ROTC or gym class, and I hated going to the gym, so it was an easy decision.
I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, Military Intelligence, US Army on August 1, 1968. In April 1969 I was assigned to the 509th Radio Research Group in the Republic of Viet Nam, where my first assignment was as a Radio Research Platoon leader in support of the 1st Infantry Division in Quan Loi, Dau Tieng, and Xian.
September 1969 found me reassigned as a Communications Security (COMSEC) Officer and responsible for Crypto Facility inspections. My tour in the Republic of Viet Nam was over in April 1969 and I was released from active duty in September 1970. I served four years in the inactive Army Reserve and was discharged in September 1974.
In 1980 I decided that I wanted to go back into the Reserve and was reappointed as a Captain and commanded the 519th ASA Company, providing support to warfighters such as the Marines and the 7th Infantry Division. Subsequent assignments in the Reserve took me to Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.
In August 1989, I joined the Strategic Intelligence section. From July 1997 to February 1998, I served as the Deputy Commander of the Joint Information Campaign Task Force, Sarajevo, Bosnia, and I was promoted to Colonel in November 1998.
After my retirement, in April 2002, I graduated from the US Army War College. I served as a volunteer instructor for deploying personnel at Fort Hunter Liggett in December 2003 and April 2005, and was elected Honorary Colonel of the US Army in 2003, and served in that position until 2010.
In the summer of 1999, I attended a Red Cross Northern California Coast Region Training Symposium in Pebble Beach, Calif. where I was certified as a Public Affairs Associate. I volunteered sporadically until December 2016 when I was assigned as the Volunteer Partner to the Regional Communications Director.
In addition to Public Affairs, I am active in Service to the Armed Forces and serve as an International Humanitarian Law Instructor. I have deployed for the San Jose Flood, numerous wildfires and two mass casualty events.
Being a Red Crosser has certainly afforded me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s very refreshing to work for an organization that has a universal humanitarian cause. It feels that you’re actually helping others and Red Cross volunteers are genuinely nice people – they just want to help out and do good.
To learn more about how the Red Cross supports active military, veterans and their families or volunteer to work alongside them to make our communities stronger, visit redcross.org/SAF.
By Sharon J. Alfred, Red Cross, Senior Journalist Volunteer
Edmund Tang started volunteering with the American Red Cross at an early age. He was just 16 years old when he became heavily involved with the Red Cross Youth Corps. During his high school years, Tang was a dual volunteer in both Northern and Southern California regions. Then he went to the University of California – Santa Cruz.
Settling in the Northern California Coastal Red Cross Region (NCCR), Tang found out there were no formal youth programs there so he met with his Red Cross chapter and region team and AmeriCorps representatives to start official youth programs. This four-year project was one of his favorites. Tang proudly asserted that “by the time I left my position in 2021, we had a small Youth Corps in our chapter that was linked to the region’s Youth Corps.”
Now, Tang identifies his main volunteer region as the NCCR, though he sometimes volunteers in the Los Angeles area. He said, “I spend a lot of my other time volunteering in NCCR as a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Administrator and Information & Planning (I&P) Coordinator. I am also a medical responder, assistant station leader for the First Aid Stations team in the LA Region for the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA. I deploy nationally in Disaster Health Services (DHS) as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Shelter Associate.”
Tang continues to volunteer with the Red Cross because of the valued connections he makes in the communities. Even as a busy medical student, he keeps up his Red Cross volunteer activities. “On my breaks from school, I schedule myself available to volunteer at any capacity from tabling events, chapter logistics to community events in both the LA region and NCCR, and I also spent some time virtually as a DAT Dispatcher, taking information and sending DAT responders to calls,” he remarked.
Tang plans to remain a Red Cross volunteer for a long time. He loves to hear disaster victims’ stories of recuperation, progress and recovery, such as: “I am fully recovered from the hospital”; or, “my insurance got everything handled”; or, “I finally got my house rebuilt.”