Are you ready for a winter storm?

Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross
Credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

The first big winter storm, when inches and inches of snow falls, often catches you by surprise. Your commute to work takes twice as long; your pantry lacks basic supplies; and your mind, well, where did its patience go?  We urge you, and we urge you to urge others, to slow down in every way and take a few critical steps towards preparing for the season. Below are several resources that will help you. Take and adapt them for you and your family. What special needs should be tended to before a snow emergency arrives? This tip sheet will help you prepare for and respond during winter weather. This check list covers both winter storms and severe cold preparedness. And this web page addresses pet safety during snowstorms and has an additional link to getting your pets ready for different disasters. Your emotional response to severe weather and other disasters, and the stress they invite, is worth understanding too. For more resources visit

Winter, again?

Ice cream vs. ice scraper? Hmmm, what would the Red Cross chose?
Ice cream vs. ice scraper? Hmmm, what would the Red Cross chose?

Are you, like me, scattered, doing too much, not thinking AT ALL about winter, stormy weather, and its hazards? Seriously, where is that ice scraper, snow brush, hat, gloves (matching? HA!), and that I-thought-it-was-high-tech (light, warm, and breathable) coat that’s supposed to resist getting wet when snow lands on it? They’re nowhere around when I hear a weather report from a silky voice, all calm and dolce vita-like coming from my radio, saying something DUMB like there’s 3 to 5 inches of snow expected (HEY, dogs, stop barking!) tomorrow night (or tonight?) and the day after. Okay, FINE, whether (or weather) it’s tonight or tomorrow (or every other day thereafter), it’s time to check my life kit, car kit, hunker down kit. It’s time to click here and review Red Cross tips (about, prepare, respond) for winter storms and get my ice and snow act together AGAIN. How about you?

From Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross Communicator, and Cali Gal Ex-Pat in MN

Ready For The Deep Freeze?

THE COLD IS COMING! THE COLD IS COMING! THE COLD IS COMING! By now perhaps you’ve heard: we’re soon to have the coldest weather that we’ve had in Minnesota during the past FOUR years. Rather than FREAKING OUT (as some of us are doing), we asked Minnesota winter adventurer Linda Newman to provide us with tips for staying warm outside when it’s -512 degrees. (Okay, FREAK OUT person is exaggerating. How about BELOW ZERO? It probably feels the same.)

Linda Newman and Arrow, one of her sled dogs. Photo courtesy of Linda (and Arrow).
Linda Newman and Arrow, one of her sled dogs. Photo courtesy of Linda (and Arrow).

Cold weather tips from someone who knows (and is smart because she has fluffy warm dogs, too):

  1. Dress in warm layers. Be prepared. You can’t put on what you don’t have but you can take off a layer. Put a water and windproof outer layer over all under layers that is breathable.
  2. NO cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it close to your skin, keeping you damp and cold.
  3. Keep moving. Even boots rated for 100 below temperatures won’t keep your feet warm if you’re standing still for too long.
  4. No alcohol. Alcohol actually dehydrates you, making you cold.
  5. Stay hydrated. Keep a thermos handy filled with your favorite warm, non alcoholic beverage.
  6. Chemical foot warmers and hand warmers are your friends!
  7. Cold feet and hands. If you want to get warmth to your extremities, you must get the blood flowing to them. Clap your hands together. Make the motion of throwing a ball, rotating your arm from your shoulder, getting the blood directly to your hands. Stomp your feet.
  8. Having a hood with a ruff of some type does help keep your face warmer from wind.
  9. Windproof is the word. Fleece gloves without this feature are cold, cold, cold! A windproof neck gaiter is also so nice!
  10. Don’t suffer in silence. If you’re cold, go get warm. Frostbite is no fun.

Thank  you, Linda (and Arrow), for sharing your winter weather wisdom with us. We hope that you’re toasty warm during the coming days. Meanwhile, everyone can download the American Red Cross free mobile First Aid app and learn what to do in case of frostbite, hypothermia and other emergencies. (Now, back now to FREAKING OUT!)

Red Cross Responds On Sub-Zero Minnesota Morning

By Red Cross Volunteers Dave Schoeneck and Grace Thompson

When fire struck an apartment building on a recent sub-zero morning in Minnesota, residents had little time to do more than escape. Some leaped from second- and third-story windows while others dropped their children into the arms of first responders.

Eleven apartments suffered extensive damage, displacing more than 30 people. Within minutes, Twin Cities Red Cross volunteers responded to assist them.

Red Cross Comfort Kit
A simple Red Cross Comfort Kit, which includes shampoo, soap, and other essential personal care items, helps people with immediate disaster relief. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“Some people fled the burning building in nothing more than shorts,” said Anne Florenzano, a Red Cross volunteer who arrived on the scene early Tuesday.

Heated buses provided initial refuge while residents wondered where they’d sleep that night. By 10:30 AM, the Red Cross had opened a shelter offering a safe and warm place for families to sleep and make plans for rebuilding lives torn apart by disaster.

Kiara Faalafula, a six year-old girl living with her grandmother, was dropped from the second story window because smoke filled the halls made escape by stairs impossible. A police officer caught the kindergartener and took her to a heated bus where she was given a blanket, and later a coat.

Melvin Saballos, 31, who also lived on the second floor, was woken by his father about 5:45 AM. The hall was so filled with smoke that the only exit was through a window.

Melvin, 31, escaped the burning building on a ladder and later sought refuge in a Red Cross shelter. Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

“The Red Cross has been very attentive to the needs of the people, making sure that nobody panics,” said Saballos. “The Red Cross has been incredibly helpful. We are warm and safe.”

Britney Godfrey and Roderick Diggins, along with their daughter, MaKayla, and Roderick’s sister, Ladietra Diggins and her son, Tre’von Diggans, lived in a third floor apartment.

MaKayla, 3, was dropped from a third-story apartment window and caught by a police officer. Here, she's getting clean socks and pants (that are way too big for her). Photo credit: Grace Thompson/American Red Cross

Britney woke up, smelled smoke, and tried to get everyone out, but the smoke-filled hallway was impassible. Godfrey realized that the window was the only way out. After dropping the children into the arms of first responders, the three adults then jumped to save their own lives. All are grateful for the Red Cross help they’ve received.

Since January 1, The Twin Cities Red Cross has responded to 80 fire disasters, providing comfort and other immediate disaster relief for more than 250 people. More than 75 Red Cross volunteers have assisted these families.

Residents affected by the Bloomington apartment fire or other recent disasters can call (612) 871-7676 for more information about the Red Cross and disaster relief services.

Flashlight, Food, and Water

Our first winter storm of the season is approaching. The grocery stores are bustling (good for our economy, yes?) and people are pulling out their sweaters and comforters, getting ready for a long weekend at home.

To help, the Red Cross has a winter storm safety check list.  

Upon review we noticed that the check list does not specifically mention some of our favorite winter preparedness items, such as footie pajamas, apple cider, dark and/or milk chocolate, and lightsaber.

Our emergency services director Jill, who grew up in the country, remembers having to stay inside for days during snow storms. She suggests having movies and popcorn on hand, but if you do not have power then a camping lantern and deck of “Old Maid” playing cards should help pass the time.

Otherwise, you can do like Jill’s dad did: move all furniture and stuff to the center of the basement and ride a bicycle around in circles.

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