The latest winter storm is dropping a foot of snow in some areas of the Midwest, and the American Red Cross is urging people to stay inside and avoid unnecessary travel if possible.
Meanwhile, the continuous string of snow and ice hitting the United States has caused more than 30,000 blood donations to go uncollected since the start of 2011, and the Red Cross is asking people to give blood now. Since the beginning of February, the weather has caused the cancellation of more than 11,600 scheduled blood and platelet donations.
Red Cross chapters are responding, helping people to weather this latest winter blast. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Red Cross had emergency warming stations ready for travelers who may become stranded and unable to reach their destination due to the storm. Tulsa received 14 inches of snow last week and already had almost five inches by early Wednesday.
Dean Guay was travelling from Boston to California for a job when his bus was forced to stop for the night in Tulsa. He and other passengers spent the night at a Red Cross shelter. Chris Pletter, was on the same bus, destined for Arizona. He said he expects it'll be three or four days before he can leave. "I'm glad we're in good hands here. If it wasn't for the Red Cross we'd be on the streets now."
If someone is eligible to give blood, they are asked to schedule a donation now by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or visiting www.redcrossblood.org. All blood types are needed, but there is a special need for donors with O-Negative, A-Negative and B-Negative blood.
To give blood, someone must be 17 years of age or older (16 with parental permission in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements. Individuals should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when coming to donate.
The Red Cross has steps people can follow to remain safe and warm when winter weather comes to their neighborhood. Stay inside if possible and off the roads. If someone must go outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep them warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Other safety tips include:
- Prevent frozen pipes by opening 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.
- 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 winter storm safety, visit www.redcross.org