Forecasters have said Friday's storms could produce tornadoes, straight-line winds and hail and affect areas from the southern Great Lakes to the lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys, including the cities of Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Nashville and Birmingham.
The Red Cross provides safety steps for people to follow to protect members of their household.
"Pick a safe place in your home or apartment building where household members and pets can gather during a tornado," Wabash Valley Chapter Emergency Services Director Stephanie Land said. "Use a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows."
Other steps to take include:
* Watch for tornado warning signs such as dark, greenish clouds, large hail, a roaring noise, a cloud of debris or funnel clouds. Secure outside items such as lawn furniture or trashcans, which could be picked up by the wind and cause injuries,
* If a tornado watch is issued, it means tornadoes are possible and people should be ready to act quickly. If a tornado warning is issued, it means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar and people should go underground immediately to a basement or storm cellar or to an interior room such as a bathroom or closet,
* If a tornado warning is issued and someone is outside, they should hurry to the basement of a nearby sturdy building. If they cannot get to a building, they should get in a vehicle, buckle in, and drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
If flying debris occurs, a person can pull over and stay in the car with the seat belt on, their head below the window, and cover their head with a blanket or their hands. If someone does not have a vehicle, they should find ground lower than the surface of the roadway, and cover their head with their hands, and
* If someone is in a high-rise building, they should pick a place in the hallway in the center of the building.
Red Cross shelters were open overnight in Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Missouri, where the Red Cross is serving hundreds of meals a day in areas that were affected and without power.
Numerous injuries were reported, and many homes and businesses were destroyed.
The Red Cross is working with local governments and community partners to help those affected by the storms as they begin to clean up their neighborhoods.
The Red Cross, in addition to providing health and mental health services, has damage assessment teams fanning out in affected communities.
In Harrisburg, Ill., an area that was hit particularly hard Wednesday by recent storms, the Red Cross Blood Services delivered blood products to a medical center in the area to support patient needs, and now the blood inventory in the affected areas is sufficient.
Those wishing to give blood must be 17-years-old (16 with parental permission in some states), meet height and weight requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and be in general good health.
Eligible donors can schedule an appointment by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, or by visiting www.redcrossblood.org.
To find an open Red Cross shelter visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Also, a Red Cross shelter view app is available for download on the iPhone at the Apple App Store.
To help those affected by disasters like the Midwest tornadoes and storms, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, donations can be made to support the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
Consider making a donation today by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to someone's local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243 Washington, D.C., 20013. Contributions enable the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters.