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Red Cross Watches As Strong Winds Threaten Half of U.S.


A powerful weather system could bring widespread wind damage and power outages to many as 24 states across the country over the next several days, affecting a possible 30 million people. The American Red Cross has steps you can take to be prepared for the challenges created by what is being described as the strongest storm to hit the area in years with 55 mph wind gusts being common through tomorrow.

The massive storm stretches from the Dakotas to the eastern Great Lakes. Severe thunderstorm warnings are out for much of the Midwest, and tornado watches were issued from Arkansas to Ohio.

“It’s important to get prepared for this severe weather,” said Joe Becker, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “Red Cross Chapters are getting ready to respond if needed. The best way to help protect yourself and your family is to know what actions you should take now.”

The entire Chicago area is under a tornado watch. Weather experts are predicting downed trees and power outages throughout the 24-state area. Air travel could be disrupted, and the strong winds will be powerful enough to topple high profile vehicles such as tractor-trailers. Follow these important guidelines if these damaging winds are possible in your area:

  • Prepare for high winds by removing diseased or damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, or anything else that can be picked up by the wind.
  • Watch for tornado danger signs, such as dark, often greenish clouds; a wall cloud; cloud of debris; large hail, a roaring noise, or a funnel cloud.

Be aware of what the warnings mean:

  • A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area. Be alert to changing weather conditions. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you. Many people say it sounds like a freight train
  • A tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area. Go to safety immediately. Do not wait until you can see the tornado.

Safety steps to take during a tornado:

  • Know your community’s warning system.
  • Identify a safe room where family members and pets can gather in a tornado. It could be your basement, storm cellar, or a windowless interior room on the lowest floor.
  • If you are inside, go to the safe place you picked to protect yourself from glass and other flying objects.
  • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. If you have access to sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home and immediately go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter.
  • If you are caught outdoors, go immediately to a basement or sturdy building. If this isn’t possible, get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and drive to the closest shelter.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort. You can stay in the car with the seat belt on and put your head down below the windows, covering yourself with your hands or a blanket if possible. Or if you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Your choice should be based on your specific circumstances.

After a tornado

  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them immediately.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly. Call the gas company or fire department.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home for damage. Do not use candles.

For more information on what you can do to stay safe if your neighborhood is affected by this weather system, visit the Preparedness section of our web site.