A storm system is moving across the country, threatening heavy rain, flooding and mudslides in the west and bitter cold temperatures and a significant snowfall as the storm moves eastward. The American Red Cross is preparing to respond as needed and has safety steps people should follow if the storm threatens their community.
In California, two storm systems are dumping a significant amount of rain, leading to flash flooding and the potential for mudslides. Voluntary evacuations are in effect in some areas and the Red Cross has shelter staff and relief supplies on stand-by. Flooding is also expected in parts of Illinois and Indiana and the Red Cross is preparing to respond. In the Chicago area, the Red Cross is already supplying clean-up supplies to people affected by flooding along the Kankakee River.
FLOODING SAFETYIf there is a possibility of flooding in your neighborhood, it’s time to prepare a disaster kit. Keep your emergency supplies in an easy-to-carry bag you can use at home or take with you if you have to evacuate. If flooding occurs, follow these safety steps:
Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
WINTER RETURNS TO THE EAST This same storm system is already producing bitter cold temperatures in the eastern half of the country and will bring heavy snow to the region Sunday and Monday. Some weather experts say the storm could dump as much as a foot of new snow in areas which have already been hammered by continuous severe winter weather.
WINTER DRIVING SAFETY TIPS If you have to drive in snow, the Red Cross offers these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm or what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:
Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.
Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast.Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
Don’t pass snow plows.
Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.
Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
Someone should seek medical attention immediately if they have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
Be careful when shoveling snow. Cold weather puts extra strain on your heart. Consider your physical condition, the weather and the nature of the task.
Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
Don’t forget family pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
Avoid frozen pipes - run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid freezing pipes.
About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.
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