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How to Stay Safe During Severe Weather

Severe weather is predicted to continue to affect communities along the East Coast with strong winds, heavy rain, hail and possible tornadoes. The American Red Cross is issuing steps people can take to remain safe when severe weather threatens.

Tuesday’s storms left thousands without power. Here’s what you should do if your power is out:

  • Use a flashlight in the dark, not candles.

  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.

  • If you are using a generator be sure you understand the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to use generators safely.

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

  • If it looks like 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 keep covered at all times.

  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.

  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.

  • Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.

Thunderstorms produce lightning, which unfortunately kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Their heavy rains can cause flash flooding and their strong winds can damage homes and cause power outages.


  • 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.


  • Turn around, don’t drown. If driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly 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.

  • People living in communities threatened by flooding should keep informed about weather conditions and listen to the advice of local officials.

  • Follow evacuation orders. Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.

  • Keep children and pets out of the water.

  • Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.


Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to receive emergency alerts and information about what to do in case of flooding, as well as locations of open Red Cross shelters. Users can find it in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross, texting GETEMERGENCY to 90999 for a link to download the app or going to Parents can also download the Red Cross Monster Guard: Prepare for Emergencies App for a fun game to teach children what to do in case of a disaster. People can also text MONSTER to 90999 for a link to download the Monster Guard App.

You can find safety information about all different kinds of emergencies in the Red Cross preparedness section of this web site. Information is available on what to do before, during and after the storm or other emergency.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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