Severe Weather Hovers – Red Cross Issues Safety Steps

Severe Weather
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Weather experts predict another week of strong storms will bring snow, thunderstorms, hail and strong winds to much of the country and the American Red Cross has steps people can take to stay safe if bad weather hits their community.

In the southwest, strong winds are expected throughout the week, resulting in critical fire conditions for Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Winter continues with more spring snow predicted for the Rockies and Plains all the way to the Mississippi Valley. In North and South Dakota, travel conditions are very dangerous and many roads and highways are closed or impassable due to drifting snow. And thunderstorms are possible in the Ozarks, Ohio Valley, Appalachians, Oklahoma and across the South from the Gulf Coast to the Carolinas.

WINTER STORMS The Red Cross has steps people can take to stay safe during these spring snow storms. For instance, people should avoid driving during the winter storm if possible and keep the gas tank full to keep the line from freezing.

If someone does get stuck in the snow, they should:

  • Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
  • THUNDERSTORM SAFETY Before lightning strikes, keep an eye on the sky and look for darkening skies, flashes of light, thunder or increasing wind. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Seek shelter immediately. Other steps include:

  • Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.
  • FLOODING Residents of the Fargo, North Dakota area are busy filling sandbags to combat flooding that is expected due to the rising Red River and melting of the heavy snowpack. The Red Cross is working with local restaurants to provide hot lunches for volunteers at Sandbag Central.

    This week’s heavy rains could cause flash flooding in some areas. Flash floods occur suddenly when water rises rapidly along a stream or low-lying area. People should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and head for higher ground when a flood or flash flood warning is issued. Other safety steps include:

  • 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.
  • WILDFIRE SAFETY If wildfires are possible in someone’s community, they should make sure driveway entrances and house numbers are clearly marked and identify and maintain an adequate water source outside their home such as a small pond or swimming pool.

    It’s a good idea to select building materials and plants that resist fire and regularly clean roofs and gutters. Household members should also plan and practice two ways out of their neighborhood in case one is blocked and select a place for everyone to meet outside the neighborhood in case they can’t get home or an evacuation is ordered. More information on wildfire safety is available on the preparedness section of this web site.

    DOWNLOAD FREE APPS People can also download the free Red Cross apps for mobile devices. Apps are available to help during hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires, to put first aid information at someone’s fingertips and another that helps locate Red Cross shelters. The free apps are available for direct download from the Appleor Google Play for Android app stores. The Red Cross Tornado and First Aid Apps are listed as part of CNN.com’s 7 Tools to Help You Survive a Tornado.

    EMERGENCY SAFETY STEPS The Red Cross has information about many different disaster situations and what people can do to get prepared and stay safe should an emergency occur. There is also a Disaster and Library Safety available on this web site which features checklists and guides people can download to know what to do when disasters occur.

    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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