Winter doesn’t make its official entrance until December 21, but the season’s snow and cold weather are making an early debut across the United States. The American Red Cross is on the scene, offering aid to stranded motorists in the Midwest, and operating warming shelters across the country.
A powerfulstorm blasted the middle of the country over the weekend, dumping two feet of snow in some areas, trapping motorists in their cars, and collapsing the roof of the Minneapolis Metrodome. The same weather system is headed east today, threatening the mid-Atlantic and northeast. Meanwhile, as far south as Florida, residents awoke to freeze warnings and tomorrow some parts of the Sunshine State could see temperatures in the lower 20s.
Red Cross chapters opened shelters and warming centers across the south, and offered aid to motorists stranded by the midwest storm. For the latest information on Red Cross shelters, residents can visit www.redcross.org or call their local Red Cross chapter.
The American Red Cross has some safety tips people can follow to stay safe on the road this winter:
- Carry an emergency preparedness kit in the trunk.
- Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and 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, stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
- As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
- Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
The best protection is to stay inside during a winter storm. But if you must go outside, you should take these steps to protect yourself:
- Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing, which will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.
- Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
- Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
- Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
If your neighborhood gets hit by a wintry blast, there are things you should do to protect yourself at home:
- Be careful with candles – do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
- Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
- Prevent frozen pipes - when the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing. Keep the thermostat set to a consistent temperature.
- Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If you can’t bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.
- Avoid using a stove or oven to heat your home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended. If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.
For more information on how to stay safe and warm this winter, visit www.redcross.org.