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Red Cross Responds as Snow Slams East Coast

Snow plow
Be careful not to overexert yourself if shoveling snow.

The American Red Cross is helping people all along the East Coast after this weekend’s monstrous snow storm that impacted millions of people across multiple states.

More than 650 people spent Saturday night in more than 40 Red Cross and community shelters in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. In southern New Jersey, coastal flooding filled the streets with water and icebergs. Some communities were forced to evacuate. The Red Cross opened two shelters and is supporting various shelters opened by city and county officials.

Almost 1,000 travelers were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the western part of the commonwealth and more than 215 of them escaped the storm in three Red Cross shelters. In Gaithersburg, Maryland, the snow caused a roof to collapse on apartment building and more than 65 residents escaped the cold in a Red Cross shelter.

“The Red Cross is helping people all along the eastern seaboard affected by the storm, providing a safe place to stay and food to eat,” said Brad Kieserman, vice president, Disaster Services Operations and Logistics for the Red Cross. “The effects of this storm will last for several days. We urge people to stay off the roads until they are safe again and to use caution if they have lost power in their homes.”

POWER OUTAGE If someone’s home loses power or heat during extreme cold, they should go to a designated public shelter. If they are going to use a generator, never use it indoors, even in a garage, carport, basement or crawlspace, as fumes from the generator can be deadly. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

Other safety tips include:

  • Use flashlights for light, not candles.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and if in doubt, throw it out. Your refrigerator will keep cold for about 4 hours. If the freezer is full, it will keep its temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Have coolers on hand and surround your food with ice in the cooler or refrigerator to keep food cold for a longer period of time.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and any appliances, equipment or electronics to avoid damaging them when the power is restored.
  • Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
  • Watch animals and keep them under your direct control.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
  • WINTER DRIVING It may take several days for crews to make the roads safe again. The Red Cross urges people to avoid driving if possible. If someone has to get out on the road, they should make sure their vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case they get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk in case they get stuck. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.

  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.
  • AFTER THE STORM As people begin to dig out their homes, the Red Cross cautions them to be very careful. Shoveling snow is very strenuous work and people should consider their physical condition before taking it on. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Other safety steps include:

  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  • Help people who might need special help, such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm.
  • HOME FIRE DANGER Storms like this can result in a high number of home fires.

  • Use flashlights for light, not candles.
  • People should never use a stove or oven to heat their home. If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • WEATHER IMPACTS BLOOD COLLECTIONS The Red Cross has an emergency need for blood and platelet donors. Severe winter weather since Jan. 1 has forced the cancellation of more than 160 blood drives in 18 states, resulting in more than 5,100 donations uncollected, further depleting an already low winter supply.

    With the winter storm affecting multiple states along the East Coast, more blood drives will likely be cancelled. Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals as quickly as donations come in. Eligible blood and platelet donors of all types are urged to make an appointment to give as soon as possible. Donors in weather affected areas are urged to give blood or platelets once the storm has passed and travel is deemed safe. Donors in areas unaffected by the weather may be helping patients close to home or patients in areas where donors are unable to give because of inclement weather. To make an appointment to donate download the Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

    DOWNLOAD EMERGENCY APP Download the free Red Cross Emergency App for winter weather alerts and warnings and location of shelters. The app’s Winter Storm section contains expert advice for what to do before, during and after winter storms.

    HOW TO HELP You can help people affected by disasters like winter storms or countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

    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.