The severe weather moving across the eastern half of the country today led to heavy tornado damage in the Houston, Texas area yesterday and power outages and downed trees farther north due to heavy snow.
Almost 40,000 customers in Texas remain without power today after Tuesday’s tornado near Houston damaged buildings, overturned large trucks and caused a train accident. Heavy rain flooded roadways, leading to stranded cars and water rescues. One of the facilities damaged was a nursing home where almost 60 residents had to be evacuated.
Heavy rain and possible flash flooding are possible today across the Gulf Coast where people in Alabama and Georgia are still recovering from tornadoes earlier this month.
RED CROSS HELPING The American Red Cross has trained disaster workers helping in Texas, providing shelter overnight and assisting with damage assessment to determine the impact of the tornado and which communities will need additional support moving forward.
Meanwhile, in Georgia and Alabama, more than 350 Red Crossers are supporting people impacted by the string of tornadoes that hit the region earlier this month. Preliminary reports indicate more than 990 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged.
The Red Cross has provided more than 1,000 shelter stays in five shelters, served more than 35,500 meals and snacks and distributed more than 27,100 relief items. Red Cross volunteers are also helping families cope during this challenging time and replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment like canes and wheelchairs.
HEAVY SNOW TO THE NORTH The National Weather Service reports regions north of the storm — stretching from Oklahoma and Arkansas to New England — will receive as much as eight inches of snow over the next several days. Gusty winds and the heavy snow could lead to power outages. More than 108,000 customers are already without power in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The Red Cross is monitoring the storm and preparing to respond if necessary.
STAY SAFE The Red Cross has steps you should take to stay safe during this dangerous weather.
AFTER THE TORNADO Let friends and family know you’re safe. If evacuated, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Check for injuries. If you are trained, provide first aid to persons in need until emergency responders arrive.
- Stay out of damaged buildings.
- Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
- Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.
- Help people who require additional assistance—infants, older adults, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.
- Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
- If someone smells gas or hears a hissing noise, they should open a window, get everyone out of the building immediately and call the gas company or fire department
- Use flashlights, not candles when examining buildings.
WINTER WEATHER SAFETY Winter weather can bring life-threatening conditions. Stay indoors and wear layers of loose fitting, lightweight warm clothes.
- Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or live alone.
- Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling snow, pushing a vehicle or walking in deep snow.
- 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.
- 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.
STAY SAFE OUTSIDE Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air.
- 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.
- If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
POWER OUTAGE SAFETY
- Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will likely be congested.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and appliances. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outside away from doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- 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, food from the freezer. If the power outage continues 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.
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.