Millions of people are keeping their eyes on a huge winter storm that could bring more than a foot of snow to the middle of the country and the American Red Cross is ready to respond if needed.
Winter storm warnings, watches and advisories have been issued for about 20 states for heavy snow, freezing rain and sleet possible from the Dakotas as far south as Texas. Torrential rains are also expected along the Gulf Coast with freezing rain dropping heavy ice in Arkansas and Missouri.
RED CROSS READY In Missouri, Red Cross workers are ready to respond if needed. Red Cross vehicles are parked inside a warehouse to avoid getting encased in ice, allowing them to respond as soon as a call comes in for help. A generator can power the warehouse if the storm causes power outages in the area.
“It's comforting knowing that, no matter what, if there's a shelter operation that needs to happen, we have a facility here that we are going to be able to respond from,” said Nigel Holderby, Red Cross’ Greater Ozarks chapter. “We never want to say no, that we are not available and can't help. Right now, we are making sure all our vehicles are inside the garage and ready to go if we should get called out."
In Kansas, Red Cross workers are on alert. Red Cross offices throughout the state are contacting volunteers, evaluating possible sheltering scenarios and closely monitoring how changing weather conditions could impact Kansas families.
“By preparing together for winter storms, we can make our families safer and our communities stronger,” said Bev Morlan, Red Cross regional executive director. “We can help families create a disaster preparedness plan now, before our community is threatened.”
As the winter storm evolves, Red Cross officials will be in contact with local emergency management to determine if and when to respond. Red Cross volunteers and supplies are ready throughout Kansas should communities face extended power outages or if large numbers of travelers are stranded.
BLOOD DONORS NEEDED The storm has already caused the cancellation of almost 30 blood drives in seven states, resulting in a shortfall of more than 900 units of blood and platelets unable to be collected due to the storm. More cancellations are expected as the storm moves through the region. The cancellations come on top of the more than 7,100 blood donations that went uncollected during the blizzard that hit the Northeast earlier this month.
The Red Cross encourages those who live in areas unaffected by the storm to schedule a time to give blood or platelets. There is a particular need for eligible donors with O-positive, O-negative, A-negative and B-negative blood types. To schedule an appointment to give blood, people can call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit www.redcrossblood.org
To give blood, someone must be at least 17 years of age, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health. Donors should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID with them. Some states allow 16-year-olds with parental consent.
WINTER STORM SAFETY If you are in the path of this storm and must go outside, wear layered lightweight clothing to keep warm. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
If traveling, try to avoid driving during the storm. If you have to drive, plan to arrive at your destination before the storm hits. Watch weather predictions for your entire route so you know what to expect along the way. Make sure you have an emergency preparedness kit in the car, and keep your car's gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing. Let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
If you do get stuck in the snow:
SAFETY AT HOME If the power goes out, use flashlights to provide light. Do not use candles for lighting. Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If that’s not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water. Other tips include:
More information on what steps you can take to stay safe during storms and other emergencies is available on this website.