A strong storm system is crossing the country, threatening millions of people from the Northern Plains to the Gulf Coast.
Across the southeast dangerous thunderstorms, strong winds, possible tornadoes and flooding are possible over the next several days. Meanwhile, the Plains and Midwest states are facing heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain.
In the south, the storms could bring tornadoes, wind gusts more than 70 mph and some areas could see as much as half a foot of rain.
Very heavy snow, freezing rain and sleet is expected across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest over the next several days. Along with strong winds, some areas could see more than a foot of snow. Conditions could lead to dangerous travel conditions and power outages.
The American Red Cross is preparing to respond if necessary and offers steps people should take to help them stay safe.
A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means a tornado is already occurring or will occur soon. Learn about your community’s warning system. Many communities use sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
- Watch for tornado danger signs: dark and greenish clouds, a wall cloud or cloud of debris.
- During a tornado warning, go to your safe place immediately, whether it’s a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. A small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
- If you live in a mobile home, find a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. No mobile home is safe in a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or vehicle, go there immediately.
- If you’re outside, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get in a vehicle and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt.
- Stay away from bridges or highway overpasses.
- If strong winds and flying debris occur while driving, pull over and park. Keep on your seat belt and the engine running. Put your head down below the windows and cover your head with your hands and a blanket.
- Turn around, don’t drown! Stay off the roads. If you must drive and you encounter a flooded roadway, turn around and go another way.
- If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising 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.
- Head for higher ground and stay there.
- Tune into your local radio, NOAA radio or news channels for the latest updates. If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, prepare to evacuate quickly if necessary. Follow evacuation orders and don’t return until officials say it is safe.
- Stay away from floodwaters. Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around floodwaters and your home.
- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwaters.
- If power lines are down, don’t step in puddles or standing water.
WINTER STORM SAFETY
- Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
- 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.
- If possible, stay off the road during severe weather. If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if you can.
- If you must drive in winter weather, keep an emergency supply kit in your vehicle, including warm clothing, water and snacks.
- Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
- Don’t follow other vehicles too closely.
- Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
- Don’t pass snowplows.
- If you become stranded, stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
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.