A record-breaking winter storm has buried Buffalo, New York and the surrounding area with as much as six feet of snow in some areas and the snow is still falling. Roads are closed, a travel ban is in effect and people are urged to stay at home. The American Red Cross has shelters open for stranded travelers and is working with state and local officials to determine what additional assistance is needed.
The National Weather Service (NWS) reports the lake effect snow will persist through Sunday. Snow could fall as fast as three inches an hour and gusting winds will produce near-zero visibility and dangerous travel conditions. Near zero wind chills will cover the area into Sunday.
The Red Cross has emergency shelters open in Hamburg and Angola, New York and will open additional shelters if necessary. As many as 50 trained Red Cross disaster workers are helping, braving the dangerous conditions themselves to provide comfort to those seeking refuge from the snow.
Lake Erie isn’t the only one of the Great Lakes causing the heavy lake effect snow. Winter weather alerts are still in effect for more than 8 million people across six states bordering all of the Great Lakes — Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The NWS predicts ongoing heavy lake effect snow will fall downwind of each of the Great Lakes through Sunday.
The Red Cross has steps you should take to stay safe if you are in the path of this winter weather:
STAY OFF THE ROADS AND REMAIN INDOORS IF POSSIBLE
- Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for updated emergency information.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.
- Bring your companion animals inside.
- Move other animals to sheltered areas with a supply of non-frozen water.
- Eat regularly.
- Drink fluids such as warm broth or juice. Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can cause dehydration.
- Conserve fuel. Lower the thermostat to 65° F (18° C) during the day and to 55° F (13° C) at night.
- Protect pipes from freezing.
- Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends who are elderly or live alone.
IF YOU MUST GO OUTSIDE
- Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
- Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe with real-time alerts, shelter locations and safety advice. The Red Cross First Aid App provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. Download these apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.