Red Cross Opens Shelters As Blizzard Buries Southwest, Plains

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 — Blizzard conditions shut down highways in the Southwest and Plains regions of the country, with the storm’s strong winds and drifting snow closing highways and stranding motorists. More than 240 people sought refuge in American Red Cross shelters in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas.

“The Red Cross opened shelters and offered hot food to people stranded by this storm,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “We are keeping an eye on the storm as it moves eastward, ready to respond if needed.”

The storm is expected to dump several more inches of snow throughout the day and could disrupt the plans of holiday travelers as it moves to the east. Officials are urging people to avoid unnecessary travel in what at times are complete whiteout conditions.

With winter just getting underway, the Red Cross offers these steps people can take to stay safe and warm:

If you must go outside, wear layered lightweight clothing which will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Other safety tips include:

Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks.
If you shovel snow, be extremely careful. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Avoid overexertion.
Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must …
Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk.
Keep your car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
If your power is out, do not use candles for lighting. Use flashlights only.
Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside your home, including in the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If you can’t bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.
Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.

Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended.

For more information on how to stay safe this winter, visit www.redcross.org.

~Hanna Malak
hmalak.nyc@gmail.com

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