The American Red Cross is responding to the major winter storm which has covered the South in a deep freeze, and threatens the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states today and tomorrow as it moves northward.
Red Cross workers opened shelters across the South where the wintry blast left many without power, closed airports, schools and businesses, and turned roads into skating rinks. In Alabama alone, more than 220 people spent the night in Red Cross shelters, seeking escape from the frigid weather. As far north as Maine, Red Cross chapters are working with state and local officials, preparing to respond to the storm as needed.
Two winter storm systems are merging today before tracking to the northeast along the East Coast. Weather experts predict large areas of freezing rain and snow from the upper Midwest into the Mid-Atlantic states, expanding into the northeast where heavy snow is expected in New England tomorrow.
If possible, people should stay inside and avoid unnecessary travel. The Red Cross offers these steps people can take to stay safe and warm:
- If your power is out, do not use candles for lighting. 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.
- 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.
- Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. 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.
- Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended.
If you must go outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Other safety tips include:
- Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks.
- If you shovel snow, be extremely careful. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Avoid overexertion.
Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must travel:
- Carry a Disaster Supplies 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.