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One In Five In U.S. Under Severe Weather Threat

Emergency response Vehicles
...people could be faced with strong winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms and even a derecho with straight-line wind damage.

More than 60 million people from Iowa to the East Coast are under the threat of severe weather today and Thursday and the American Red Cross has steps people should take to stay safe if they are in the path of these storms.

Weather experts predict people could be faced with strong winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms and even a derecho with straight-line wind damage. Areas under threat include the northern and central Plains, Midwest, Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic states.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross is responding to wildfires in Colorado and Washington, where flames have destroyed thousands of acres and forced people from their homes. The Red Cross also continues to help people recover in Oklahoma from last month’s deadly tornadoes.

STORM SAFETY People should know their community’s warning system for severe thunderstorms. Also, many mobile devices are equipped to alert the owner when a storm is threatening. People should heed any storm alerts and watch for signs of a storm like darkening skies, increasing wind or lightning. If a storm threatens, you should:

  • Postpone outdoor activities and take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
  • If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones.
  • Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
  • If driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • If you are outside and can’t get to a safe building, avoid high ground, water, tall trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers, Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe.
  • POWER OUTAGE The storms strong winds could bring power lines down, leaving many with no electricity. If the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. An unopened fridge will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours – 24 hours if only half full – if the door remains closed. Use perishable food from the refrigerator first, then food from the freezer.
  • If it looks like the outage will continue longer than a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items and keep food covered at all times in a cool, dry spot.
  • Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics. Also turn off and disconnect appliances or electronics you were using when the power went out to avoid a damaging surge or spike when the power comes back on.
  • Leave one light on so you’ll know when the power returns.
  • Try not to travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads congested.
  • Do not use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gas, propane, natural gas or charcoal device inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate them away from doors and windows to prevent carbon monoxide from coming indoors.
  • FLOODING The storms’ heavy rains could bring flash flooding to some areas. Flash floods occur suddenly when water rises rapidly along a stream or low-lying area. People should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and head for higher ground when a flood or flash flood warning is issued. Other safety steps include

  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
  • WILDFIRE RESPONSE Fires have consumed almost 12,000 acres in Colorado in El Paso and Fremont counties, forcing thousands of people from their homes. The Red Cross opened multiple shelters for those affected, as well as an evacuation center where people can come for information. The wildfires are burning in areas which battled similar fires last year.

    Due to the widespread nature of the fires, people living in the affected areas and surrounding communities are encouraged to update their social media with their “safe” status or register on the Red Cross Safe and Well secure website to let loved ones know they are okay. Other safety steps include:

  • Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Visit to find a shelter.
  • Listen to local media for updated emergency information.
  • Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
  • Listen and watch for air quality reports and health warnings about smoke.
  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles that are already inside your home.
  • If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health care provider's advice and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.
  • About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.