States all along the eastern seaboard have declared emergencies after the weekend blizzard cut power to thousands of homes, stranded travelers, and threatened coastal areas with flooding. The American Red Cross is working with state and local officials, opening shelters to offer people warmth and safety.
In Florida, almost 100 people escaped the cold in Red Cross shelters. Red Cross workers have also opened shelters in Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
The nor’easter made its way up the coast over the weekend, starting in the south where many areas saw their first white Christmas in years. Today much of the South is experiencing colder temperatures than usual. Meanwhile, to the north, holiday travelers have been stranded on highways, and at airports and train stations. Thousands are without power.
Points along the East Coast received as much as 20 inches of snow. Washington, D.C. escaped the storm’s fury, but Philadelphia, New York and Boston are buried under inches of the white stuff. Coastal areas have been warned there may be flooding as the ocean crashes over seawalls.
Officials are urging people to 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 ...
- 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.
For more information on how to stay safe this winter, visit www.redcross.org.