The massive storm system sweeping across the country is now taking aim at the East Coast after causing blizzard conditions in the north-central states and deadly tornadoes across the south.
The storm is being blamed for numerous tornadoes Tuesday in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana which damaged or destroyed homes and disrupted power to thousands of customers. The threat of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flooding continues for the next several days. The American Red Cross is working with officials to respond where needed and will support damage assessment as soon as it is safe to do so.
The same storm system has already dropped as much as 20 inches of snow in parts of the north-central region of the country where millions of people face another day of winter weather warnings. Meanwhile, millions more across the east are bracing for heavy snow and freezing rain starting Thursday.
The American Red Cross has steps you should take to stay safe if you are in the path of this severe weather.
- Know your community’s warning system. There are different ways to notify people about tornadoes. Many communities use sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
- Identify a safe place in your home to gather – a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
- Move or secure items outside that can be picked up by the wind.
- If you live in a mobile home, find a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. NO MOBILE HOME IS SAFE IN A TORNADO.
- Know that a tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means a tornado is already occurring or will occur soon. IMMEDIATELY GO TO YOUR SAFE PLACE.
- Watch for tornado danger signs: dark, often greenish clouds, wall cloud, cloud of debris.
- Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of them.
- If you are outside, look for the closest option seek shelter in a basement, storm shelter or sturdy building. If you can’t walk to shelter, get into a vehicle and try to drive to a safe shelter. If strong winds and debris are occurring, pull over and put your vehicle in park. Keep your seat belt on and engine running. Protect your head by leaning down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket or jacket. Stay away from bridges and highway overpasses.
WINTER WEATHER SAFETY
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
- Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand.
- Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. If you feel too warm, remove layers to avoid sweating; if you feel chilled, add layers.
- Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.
- Protect pipes from freezing.
- If possible, bring your pets inside during cold winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water. If the animals are outside, make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.
- If thunder roars, go indoors. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning.
- Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur.
- If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
- Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
- Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
- Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
- If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
- If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.
- If someone has been struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. Anyone who has sustained a lightning strike requires professional medical care. Check the person for burns and other injuries. If the person has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR. If the person is breathing normally, look for other possible injuries and care for them as necessary. People who have been struck by lightning do not retain an electrical charge and can be handled safely.
POWER OUTAGE SAFETY
- Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.
- Don’t drive unless necessary. Traffic lights will be out and roads could be congested.
- Turn off and unplug any appliances, equipment and electronics. When the power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment. Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.
- If a power outage is two hours or less, don’t be concerned about losing perishable foods. During a prolonged outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to protect your food. Use perishable food from the refrigerator first. Then, use food from the freezer. If the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times.
- If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement or other partially enclosed area. Keep this equipment outside and away from doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet.
DOWNLOAD OUR APPS Download the free Red Cross First Aid app so you’ll know what to do if emergency help is delayed and the free Emergency app for weather alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety steps for different emergencies. Choose whether you want to view the content in English or Spanish with an easy-to-find language selector. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.