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Red Cross is On the Scene as Heavy Winds and Snow Pummel the East


The American Red Cross opened shelters overnight for people in seven states to escape the cold, snow and high winds from the winter storm that buried much of the eastern half of the United States yesterday,

The Red Cross had 32 shelters open Wednesday night in Florida, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia with more than 400 residents and travelers escaping the cold, snow and high winds. The extreme cold dipped as far south as Florida where more than 80 people came to Red Cross shelters to stay safe and warm.

In the Philadelphia area, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross Chapter opened a shelter for those without power and provided almost 600 cots, blankets and pillows to several of the major hospitals in the Delaware Valley, as well as the 911 Communications Center and the Penn-Jersey Red Cross Blood Center to give employees remaining at work a place to rest during the storm.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the heavy, wet snow left more than 158,000 without power, closed major airports, caused structures to collapse and stranded travelers in many states along the eastern seaboard.

The severe winter weather caused several Red Cross blood centers across the country to close or cancel blood drives, and is making it difficult to move blood products in areas hard-hit by the weather. The supply of platelets, which can only be kept for five days, is a pressing concern. In addition, individuals with type O negative and B negative blood are needed. Many are unable to give blood due to the inclement weather. If you are eligible and able to donate, please give blood at your earliest convenience. The Red Cross is asking eligible donors to call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit us online at redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment.

Winter 2010 is far from over with snow showers predicted by the National Weather Service Sunday and Monday for some of the same areas already buried under several feet of snow. The Red Cross offers these steps people should follow to remain safe and warm during this onslaught of cold, snow and wind:

  • 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.

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 until officials say it is safe to do so, 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.

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.