As the latest example of Ole Man Winter’s fury pulls out of the Midwest and slams up the East Coast with wind, snow and sleet, the American Red Cross has opened shelters in eight states to help people find safety and warmth during the latest storm of Winter 2010.
The Red Cross had 30 shelters open Tuesday night in Indiana, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland with more than 300 residents and travelers escaping the latest onslaught of wind and snow. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the storm will continue until sometime Thursday in most of the Northeast. FEMA reports indicate the storm will affect most of the East Coast from Washington, DC to Boston, bringing heavy snow and near blizzard conditions. Almost 65,000 are still without power from last weekend’s storm, according to FEMA.
The Red Cross has a series of steps people should follow to remain safe and warm during the storm:
If you must go outside, be careful.
- 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.
- 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 must travel, there are things you should do. Avoid traveling by car in a winter storm, but if you must...
- 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.
After the storm, be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Seek medical attention immediately if:
- You have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
- You have symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
If power lines are down in your area, do not touch any electrical power lines and keep your family away from them. Report downed power lines to the appropriate officials in your area.
What you should do if the power goes out.
- Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
- 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.
Try to keep your food supply as safe as possible.
- An unopened refrigerator will only keep foods cold for about four hours. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food-borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
- If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
Remember, carbon monoxide can kill.
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- If carbon monoxide alarms sound, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
- Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.
Use generators safely.
- When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
- If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
What you should do with electrical equipment.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
- Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
You can find more information on what to do in a power outage and how to be prepared for winter storms on www.redcross.org.