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Red Cross Responds to Winter Storms, Flooding, Wildfires

In the state of Washington, snow and ice storms caused power outages that affected over 100,000 residents

The American Red Cross is helping residents of the Pacific Northwest where heavy snow and flooding are affecting thousands, while also responding to a wildfire near Reno, Nevada, which has prompted the evacuation of thousands of people living in the fire zone.

As many as 14 rivers are expected to reach flood stage over the weekend in the Pacific Northwest, with more rain and snow forecast for the area. In the state of Washington, snow and ice storms caused power outages that affected over 100,000 residents, shut down transportation and disabled satellite communications. The Red Cross has opened shelters for those affected and is working with local government and community organizations to determine disaster relief needs throughout the area.

In Oregon, the melting snowpack has threatened hundreds of homes with flooding, leading to evacuations of residents in the affected areas. The Red Cross has shelters open to offer residents a safe place to stay, and is working with state officials to monitor the situation.

A wildfire has torched thousands of acres near Reno, Nevada, destroying homes, disrupting power and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 residents. The Red Cross is operating evacuation centers and providing support for people affected.

Snow is also forecast over the weekend from the Rocky Mountains east to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley as well as throughout the mid-Atlantic and northeast. As much as six inches of snow or more is expected in some areas. The storms have already forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 scheduled blood and platelet donations in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest areas. The Red Cross urges eligible donors in unaffected areas to make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the coming days, and those in affected areas to donate as soon as travel is deemed safe, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by visiting . Donations will help replenish the Red Cross blood supply to ensure that blood products are readily available for patients with serious medical needs.

The Red Cross has steps people can take to be safe during this latest winter onslaught. If you must go outside, wear layered lightweight clothing, which 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.
  • 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 in 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.
  • 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.
  • Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must ...

  • 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.
  • More information on how to stay safe this winter is available on the Red Cross website.

    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.