Catherine with Gracie

The American Red Cross tornado app works! Just ask Catherine Rice and her beloved pets Oliver and Gracie

The three Nassau Bay, Texas residents were enjoying an uneventful day Tuesday when Catherine’s phone call with her brother was interrupted by an unfamiliar alarm. 

“My brother and I were having a nice, long conversation—he lives in Washington State—so I hadn’t been outside or listened to any news,” Rice said. “I had no idea we had a storm coming our way. Suddenly my phone sent out an alarm that got my attention—it was my American Red Cross tornado app, telling me that a tornado was on the ground close by and to take immediate shelter.”

Rice’s new home in Nassau Bay, just south of Houston, has one room without outside walls, and she rounded up Oliver and Gracie and headed for it without delay.

“My closet is where we spent some uneasy time, until my app told me we were safe, that the tornado had moved on,” she said. “My brother stayed on the phone with me until he knew that we were all right.”

Was she scared? “Once I looked at the app and realized the tornado was on the ground, about a mile away, I knew we were in trouble,” Rice said. “The city of Nassau Bay also alerted us, but it was the Red Cross that came first, and gave us time to get to the safest place in the house.”

Oliver and Gracie? “Oh they are pretty relaxed about everything. Oliver, aka ‘Little Dog,’ is 18 years old and he’s seen and done it all, so he goes with the flow. Gracie, she’s a hunting dog and thought she might get to retrieve a bird or something equally exciting, so she was a little disappointed when it was only an E3 tornado coming right at us,” said the retired attorney. 

Rice had downloaded the Red Cross apps as they were released. “I’ve been alerted to earthquakes and tornadoes by the apps in Missouri, where I have lived until recently. I didn’t expect a tornado here on the Gulf Coast, but we had one and the Red Cross app warned me to take cover and kept us safe. Now that I live on the Gulf Coast, I’m expecting the hurricane app to sound the alarm when we have a storm brewing in the Gulf. I’ve always had these apps on my phone, and this week, I’m really, really glad I do.”

Ultimately, Rice and her two dogs emerged from the closet to find their home was intact.

“I really feel for those whose homes and vehicles had so much damage, but am glad there were no casualties here,” she said. “And I’m very grateful for my Red Cross app. It did its job, and I am so thankful that it did. My brother is, too. The dogs? They’re not impressed. But then again, they’re never impressed unless food is involved.”  

Download the American Red Cross Emergency! Apps to monitor hazards and set up alerts for your area or any area you specify. The app will alert you to earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, winter storms and more. It also provides information on how to prepare your family and your home and vehicle for emergencies, and provides real-time information on locations of Red Cross shelters. Information is available in English and Spanish. The app is free and can be downloaded from wherever you get your apps.  

Story by Trudy Thompson Shumaker, Communications Volunteer from Arizona