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Power Outages Drive Residents to Warm Shelters in Northeast

Winter Storm
It's not home, but it's the next best thing

Over the weekend, the American Red Cross assisted thousands of people as a historic blizzard buried parts of the Northeast with several feet of snow. Sunday night, more than 1,500 people found comfort and warmth in 32 shelters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island after the massive snowstorm cut off power.

Shelters provide a safe place for residents where they can have a warm meal and recharge cell phones and other electronics until the power returns.

Disaster Hits Home for Red Cross Staff Member

Donna Morrissey, Red Cross Blood Services employee and disaster volunteer, has responded to emergencies across the country at a moment’s notice. Most recently, Morrissey responded in New York City in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and spent a week in Newtown Connecticut assisting in the community after the unimaginable school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This past weekend, Morrissey was riding out the blizzard on Cape Cod when she and a colleague lost power.

“It was 45 degrees inside and we bundled up until it was safe to get on the road. We could see our breath in the air and all we could do was hunker down and wait,” said Morrissey. “When it was safe to do so we went to a shelter to get warm and have a bite to eat.”

Once at the Nauset High School Shelter, although a victim of the storm herself, she went to work, coordinating with emergency management and partner agencies to share information with affected residents and tell the Red Cross story.

“This week, my work came full circle when I personally felt the incredible reach of the American Red Cross firsthand,” said Morrissey.

Shelter Provides the Next Best Thing to Home

Arlene and Bob Williams of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts arrived at a shelter Saturday afternoon because they too, lost power. Bob has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a common lung disease, and relies on an oxygen tank to breathe. The couple was staying warm by their fireplace, but ran out of wood.

Bob was struggling to breathe so the fire department brought them to the shelter at Dennis Yarmouth Regional High School. "They (Red Cross) help you,” said Bob. “They're always there when you need them." 

"It's not home, but it's the next best thing to home because it's so comfortable," added Arlene.

To find a Red Cross shelter, people can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit the Red Cross website, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or check local media outlets.

Snowed In? Follow Red Cross Safety Tips

The best thing people can do right now is listen to the advice of local officials and stay in a safe place until weather conditions improve and roads can be cleared. As Northeast residents dig their homes out from under the snow, the Red Cross has helpful safety tips for the tasks ahead.

  • If your power is out, avoid using candles to prevent a fire.
  • Never use a generator inside your home or garage. Place the unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. If your carbon monoxide alarms sounds, quickly move somewhere where you can get fresh air.
  • Keep children and pets away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters. Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Use perishable items first. If a power outage is two hours or less, you don’t need to worry about losing perishable food items.
  • When possible, check on your neighbors.
  • If you need to be outside, protect yourself by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers.
  • If shoveling, consider your physical condition, the weather and the nature of the task. Get help from a neighbor or friend. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  • If you have to venture out in your vehicle, make sure you have emergency supplies: blanket, flashlight, snack bars and water.
  • Bring your pets inside.
  • If you suspect someone has hypothermia, call 9-1-1. Move the person to a warm place. Remove wet clothing, dry them off and put them in dry clothes. Warm the body gradually with blankets until help arrives.
  • Information and safety tips can also be found on our First Aid or Hurricane Apps. These free apps are available on both iPhone and Android platforms.
  • For more information, review the Red Cross Winter Storm Safety Checklist and the Power Outage Checklist to keep you and your loved ones safe in the aftermath of this weekend’s blizzard.

    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.